Anthony Anderson Says Mental Health Is 'Something We Don't Really Talk About' in the Black Community (Exclusive)

The actor told PEOPLE that when it comes to mental health, what's needed is "more conversations and dialogue about that to bring it to the forefront"

 Jean Catuffe/GC Images
Jean Catuffe/GC Images

Anthony Anderson is shining a light on the importance of mental health issues.

The actor, 52, hosted the Roll with the Punches Foundation's "It's Okay Not To Be Okay" Black Tie and Sneaker Gala in Washington, D.C., over the weekend.

Anderson elaborated on why he decided to participate in the gala and the significance of mental health in his life.

"I had a half brother that I really didn't have a relationship with — because we didn't know one another — who had mental issues," he told PEOPLE exclusively. "And unfortunately, he's no longer here with us."

The Black-ish star said his half brother is one reason he has become an advocate for mental health awareness.

"And now that he's gone, I was like, 'Well, you know, maybe I should have stepped in a little sooner than today and did something about it.' So that's why I'm here to help bring awareness about it, because within the African-American community, it's something that we really don't talk about," he said. "And I'm here to say it's okay to not be okay. We are here for you."

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He was asked if Hollywood should touch more upon issues of mental health.

"All things are needed for this, but more importantly, conversation, dialogue, you know, within our community," he said at the event.

"We've all grown up where there's been an aunt and uncle or family member that lived in the basement or stayed in the backroom that never really came out. We never really talked about it because of those issues," Anderson said.

"But we should talk about those issues, and bring awareness to it and let them know that it's okay, that they're not a leper, that we are family, we are a community. So just more conversations and dialogue about that to bring it to the forefront."

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He also spoke about cancel culture on social media: "It's unfortunate that, you know, the groups of people that are offended easily, or maybe not easily, but just are offended by people's opinion, I understand," he said at the event, which honored Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"I'm not a comedian. I'm a comedic actor so I don't take the stage and tell jokes and things like that but we should be conscious of other people's feelings and the transitions that they're going through and things like that.

"But, you know, as long as we aren't attacking people — comedy comes from a place of humor, from a place of, sometimes a place of pain, but sometimes it's just observation and sometimes observations can be misconstrued and whatnot, but we're here to respect everyone just like we want to be respected," he added.

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