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Empire Star Taraji P. Henson Opens up about Suicide Thoughts amid Pandemic

Taraji P. Henson, the American actress best known for her appearance as ‘Cookie’ on the hit TV series Empire, has opened up about her thoughts of suicide during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on her Facebook Watch show ‘Peace of Mind with Taraji’, the 50-year-old said she entertained the dark thoughts for two nights in a row.  

“For a couple of days, I couldn’t get out of bed, I didn’t care. That’s not me,” the Oscar nominee told her co-hosts Tracie Jade and American psychologist LaShonda Green.

Henson said she then continued, “Having thoughts about ending it.”

The Empire star told her co-hosts that she constantly thought how her death would affect her grown son, Marcell Johnson, but remembered thinking, “He’s grown, he’ll get over it".

Henson said she was thinking about getting the gun she had in a safe, but never actually opened it, according to a report by TMZ.

The actress said talking to her friends saved her; “So one day I just blurted it out to my girlfriend. She called me in the morning and I was like, ‘you know I thought about killing myself last night’”, adding that opening up about her thoughts helped her overcome them.

Rising suicide rates during the pandemic


Her story is one of many similar, as the British Medical Journal – The BMJ - reported in November that there are concerns that rates of suicide may increase or have already increased as many countries face various restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

According to the report, several factors underpin these concerns, including deterioration in population mental health, a higher prevalence of reported thoughts and behaviours of self-harm among people with the virus, and problems with accessing mental health services amid the pandemic.

Several reports, including some by the World Health Organization suggest that mental illnesses in general are on the rise since the onset of the pandemic.

In Kenya, the Ministry of Health reported that mental illnesses had risen considerably after the virus was registered in the country and asked for urgent intervention.

In the United States, Federal surveys show that 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem, with young people being the hardest hit at 75 percent.

Worldwide, data by the World Health Organization indicates that there were close to 800,000 suicide deaths in 2016. 

Margaret Njugunah

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