Actress Taraji P. Henson has launched a campaign to help students with mental health struggles and racial bias at school.
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, Henson, a former substitute teacher, revealed to PEOPLE that The Unspoken Curriculum would help Black students recognize signs of trauma and give them the tools to speak up and seek help.
The program spans six weeks, beginning May 17th to June 21st. It includes discussions with mental health specialists and virtual hangout spaces managed by therapists and teachers. Students can use this safe space to speak out about their mental health and racial experiences that they’ve endured in school. The “EMPIRE” star designed the curriculum through The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, her mental health non-profit organization. Public relations firm Edelman also assisted with the outline.
“I taught a special education class, but all of the students were Black boys who had all of their mental and physical capabilities. These children came from traumatic home situations, and the school labeled them ‘special ed,'” Henson recalls. “These students were only in the 4th grade, and they would grab my hand and say, ‘Ms. Henson! Ms. Henson! There was a shootout nearby last night. Look at the bullet holes in the wall,’ and laugh. That’s trauma. That’s not something to celebrate or normalize.”
Henson says that education professionals need to recognize children struggling and offer assistance rather than labeling them or criminalizing them.
To find out more about The Unspoken Curriculum, visit borislhensonfoundation.org/unspoken.