Taraji P. Henson Says Mental Health Advocacy Has 'Changed' Her Approach to Her Work (Exclusive)

"I'm always thinking about my character's mental state in any character I portray," 'The Color Purple' actress tells PEOPLE

<p>Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty</p> Taraji P. Henson

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson is not afraid to speak up about mental wellness.

The Color Purple actress recently spoke with PEOPLE about her new children’s book, You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!), and what mental wellness means to her.

"What inspired this book is that I work in mental health,” Henson tells PEOPLE. “I'm an advocate for mental wellness, and so it's always about meeting people where they are and trying to help as much as I can — make this journey called life a little easier for all of us.”

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty Images</p> Taraji P. Henson

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Taraji P. Henson

Related: Taraji P. Henson’s Substitute Teaching Experience, Love for Kids Helped Inspire New Children’s Book (Exclusive)

Henson, 53, has long been an outspoken advocate for mental wellness.

She co-founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018, in honor of her father who served in the Vietnam War. Lawrence Henson died in 2005.

“I'm often reminded of how he just wore his heart on his sleeve. He didn't hide anything,” Henson says. “He was bold enough to live and walk in his truth no matter how pretty you may think it is or ugly, because it was all about, ‘I'm going to tell you the truth so that you don't have to go through the same things I went through.’ ”

Her focus on mental health also extends to her career in acting, telling PEOPLE she is “always thinking about my character’s mental state in any character I portray.”

“I don't care what character that I'm dealing with, they have a cross that they have to bear, which is affecting their mental health,” Henson says. “Me becoming an advocate for mental health has changed the way I look and approach my work.”

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'You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!)' by Taraji P. Henson
'You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!)' by Taraji P. Henson

Her approach to prioritizing mental health extends to her parenting as well, she told Verywell Mind. In raising her son Marcell, 30, she said she has emphasized the importance of vulnerability and asking for help when you need emotional support.

Related: Taraji P. Henson Talks Breaking the 'Cycle of Suffering' with Mental Health: 'Vulnerability Is Your Strength'

“We have both gone through trauma, and finding a therapist, a support system surrounding you, and accessible resources are a tremendous help and something that should be more readily available to all,” Henson told the outlet.

Henson’s book You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!) is available now wherever books are sold.

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