By On January 8th, 2019

Idris Elba’s daughter, Isan Elba, uses Golden Globes Ambassadorship to Promote Mental Health

Over the weekend, Isan Elba, daughter of actor Idris Elba, took the stage to hand out awards at the 2019 Golden Globes as this year’s Golden Globes Ambassador. However, the 17-year-old wasn’t just giving out trophies and posing for pictures. She was also working to raise awareness about mental health in the black community.

As she explained at a luncheon leading up to awards show, mental health is a deeply personal issue. Her mother, Hanne “Kim” Norgaard, has struggled with mental illness throughout her life.

“It was only about two years ago that my mom opened up to me,” Isan told PEOPLE. “I’m not going to lie, it’s a struggle every day. It’s a learning lesson for me, but it’s hard. Mental health is something that’s hard to deal with. We just sat down and talked about it, and I think that was better for her, talking about it and talking about it with someone who means the most in her life and just getting that out.”

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Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the other beautiful moms out there! ♥️

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Isan said her mother lives with bipolar depression, depression, and chronic anxiety.

“It was like, ‘Woah,’” she said of learning about what her mother was going through for the first time. “It was definitely a learning curve. I’m so much closer to my mom now because I know what she’s going through.”

Norgaard was married to Idris Elba, best known for his roles in HBO’s The Wire and BBC drama Luther, from 1999 to 2003.

While Isan has been fortunate to not experience clinical mental health issues of her own, she told PEOPLE she has struggled with self-esteem issues after being bullied at school.

“I’ve always been a quirky kid,” she said. “I’ve had to work through that. Part of the reason I was bullied was because of my personality. Other people gravitated towards my personality — but at my school, the kids had never met someone so sporadic like me. After that, I just sort of said, ‘Whatever, I’m not going to listen to what you say.’”

As part of being chosen as this year’s Golden Globes Ambassador, Elba partnered with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation and a $50,000 donation will be made in her name by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation was established by actress Taraji P. Henson in honor of her late father and seeks to raise awareness and provide to support for those with mental illness.

While most of her formal duties ended when the awards show was over, Elba says she plans to use the title to continue fighting to raise awareness and diminish the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African-American community.

“After this, I will still continue to advocate for mental health,” she told Variety, “in the African-American community and among teenagers, because I’m both, and it’s such taboo in both communities.”

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