Beyond the staggering loss of life, it’s incredibly hard to quantify the coronavirus pandemic’s mental health toll. With 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the past six weeks, an alarming number of people in vulnerable communities are suddenly without healthcare or a means to pay for therapy. Further, so many of the country’s essential workers, performing risky labor every day, were never given health benefits from their employer in the first place.
Last month, Taraji P. Henson launched a campaign to aid the mental health strain by offering free virtual therapy sessions for anyone in the Black community who couldn’t afford help during the pandemic. Through her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named for her late father who struggled with manic depression, Henson has provided care for more than 1,000 people since April 15. According to a new interview with Zora, the website crashed in its first day of availability, flooded with registrations.
Henson tells Zora that these virtual therapy sessions are a way to ease into the anxiety of therapy sessions, since you can do it without leaving the house. “We’re talking about the African American community, an underserved community. Now is the perfect time to try it out because you’re in the comfort of your own home,” she says. “You can go in a closet and turn the lights off and just pour your heart out.”
She emphasizes the importance of providing mental health care to essential workers who are frequently in harm's way and receiving disproportionately low pay. “The people we’re trying to help are the people who are getting left behind. A lot of them are essential workers,” Henson tells Zora. “How dare we depend on them so much and they have nowhere to go [for mental health care] because they just can’t afford it?”
You can register right on the Free Virtual Therapy Support Campaign website, which covers up to five sessions “exclusive to individuals and families experiencing a life-changing event(s) related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.”