Photo credit: Micaiah Carter
Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the United States in the month of May; however, “Queen Sugar” star, Kofi Siriboe, just extended the conversation around the taboo subject with the release of his new mini- documentary called “WTF Is Mental Health.”
The project was filmed in the Bronx and features seven young Black people getting candid about their mental health, challenges and the stigma surrounding the topic.
“Making ‘WTF Is Mental Health?’ has been a part of a healing process for me, one I’m still exploring,” Siriboe told the HuffPost in an exclusive interview. “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.”
The project itself was inspired by Siriboe’s own mental health struggles as he recalls feeling “some type of unease, a level of unhappiness (he) really couldn’t shake” when he started to reach a new level of success in his career.
“Everybody doesn’t have that language and doesn’t understand that there is a community or world out there of people who are dealing with similar things, so I really want to explore what it is and what it means to us,” Siriboe explained. “A lot of our project is just asking questions, and I think with the questions they’re able to give us answers and able to define these definitions for ourself rather than what we’re accustomed to being told.”
He added: “If we don’t admit what’s going on to ourselves, we’re gonna keep hurting in silence, which is killing us twice as much as our Caucasian counterparts…That’s what I wanna end.”
At 24, Siriboe hopes to use his own experience and platform to help create a safe space of healing for people who look like him. He’s also calling for other young Black people to submit a video about the understanding of their mental health. Take 4 minutes and 37 seconds to watch Siriboe’s documentary below.