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Taraji P. Henson opens up about how she told her son his dad had been murdered

Henson's son was only 9 years old when his father was stabbed to death.
/ Source: TODAY

Taraji P. Henson is opening up about how difficult it was to tell her son that his father had been murdered.

In a new preview for Wednesday's episode of Facebook Watch's "Peace of Mind with Taraji," the "Empire" star, 50, recalled breaking the news to her son, Marcell Johnson, that his dad, William LaMarr "Mark" Johnson, had died.

"My son's father was suddenly taken — murdered — when he was 9, and I didn't know how to tell him that. I couldn't tell him he was murdered, so I told him he died in an accident," the Oscar nominee told co-host Tracie Jade Jenkins and their guest, mental health counselor Sierra Hillsman.

Marcell Johnson, who's now 26, later learned the truth about his father's death.

Taraji P. Henson and son Marcell Johnson at her Hollywood Walk Of Fame star ceremony
Taraji P. Henson and her son, Marcell Johnson, at a ceremony honoring Henson with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January 2019.Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

"Later on in life he found out and he came back to me and was like, 'Why didn't you tell me my daddy was murdered?' And so then we had to get therapy," said Henson.

The "Hidden Figures" star tearfully recounted seeing her ex's murder reported in a newspaper.

"It was in the paper and I didn't know how to tell (my son). He was stabbed to death. It was the worst way you could die," she said. "And I just didn't have the words. I didn't know how to tell a 9-year-old."

A longtime advocate for mental health, Henson told Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist last month that she launched her Facebook Watch show to spread awareness about mental health issues in the Black community. "The mental health crisis in the Black community felt like it needed some urgency, something where we can reach more people," she said.

She used the platform to open up about her own bout with depression in 2020, which got so bad that she wanted to "just end it all."

"I had a dark moment," she told psychologist Dr. LaShonda Green on the show last month. "I was in a dark place. For a couple of days, I couldn't get out of the bed, I didn't care. That's not me."

"Then I started having thoughts about ending it. It happened two nights in a row," she continued.

Henson felt herself withdrawing from others. She also hesitated to share her dark thoughts for fear her friends would think she was "crazy."

"So one day I just blurted it out, to my girlfriend," she said. "She called me in the morning and I was like, 'You know, I thought about killing myself last night. Oh, my God, I feel so much better. I'm not gonna do it now.'"

The candid star said she fears what might have happened if she had internalized her thoughts and not confided in a friend.

"For me, I'm no professional, but I felt like, if I don't say it, then it becomes a plan," she said. "And what scared me was that I did it two nights in a row, and the thoughts kept coming."

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, anytime.