Watch: Kofi Siriboe’s new documentary leads a necessary discussion about Black mental health
Kofi Siriboe, best known for his work on OWN’s Queen Sugar as Ralph Angel recently released a documentary focusing on Black mental health. The short documentary, entitled “WTF is Mental Health?” functions as a primer on what mental health is and what some of the stigmas attached to it are. As Siriboe tells The Huffington Post, “I feel like with mental health, people always react negatively. We kinda have a lot of stigma in our community and in society in general.” He continues, “I feel like that space wasn’t really created for us.”
The project was filmed in the Bronx and features seven people candidly discussing the issues they have faced in their journeys toward a good relationship with their mental health. The film is a companion piece to “Jump” a short Siriboe made following his friend’s suicide.
Making ‘WTF Is Mental Health?’ has been a part of a healing process for me, one I’m still exploring… It’s the companion piece to ‘Jump,’ a short film I made after a mentor and big brother figure died by suicide, just before I got the call that I’d been cast in ‘Queen Sugar.’ I started working on this beautiful, emotional show and felt how liberating it was to channel my fears into art. As I began to mold ‘Jump,’ I realized the true conversation I was craving centered on young black people who are figuring out this mental health thing, too.
Siriboe has also faced his own challenges with mental health. He told The Huffington Post that he feels that he has depression, anxiety and struggles what he calls a “general unease” and “feeling isolated,” even when he got the call from Ava DuVernay and company to be on Queen Sugar.
Siriboe’s documentary comes at a time when there is ongoing research into Black mental health. A recent report found that Black children aged 5-12 commit suicide at a rate twice as high as their white counterparts, and Siriboe believes that self expression is a large part of how the stigma around mental health in the Black community can be disrupted.
“I get to express, but what about those people who don’t have that opportunity, they’re bottling up all this emotion and being told it’s not real then we wanna talk about mental health after there’s a reaction to what’s been bottled up… and it’s not gonna stop. It’s only gonna keep getting worse,” Siriboe said of the suicide rates. “It creates a system that disconnects a person, disconnects a community and we’re weak that way. It creates a vulnerability that isn’t strength. It’s not chosen. We should be vulnerable by choice cause that’s all we can be. We have to acknowledge what it is and accept it.”
Check out “WTF is Mental Health?” below!