Mental illness is something that is plagued as a taboo topic in the African American community. That is why ‘Queen Sugar” star, Kofi Siriboe is passionate about spreading mental health awareness and he is using his platform to create dialogue around mental health. Siriboe released a short film on the topic called “WTF Is Mental Health?”
The 24-year-old model told The Huffington Post he feels like when it comes to mental health, “people always react negatively.” “We kinda have a lot of stigma in our community and in society in general,” “I feel like that space wasn’t really created for us.”
Siriboe referred to making “WTF Is Mental Health?” which is one of his first productions, and will be exclusively released to Huffington Post as a “healing process.”
“Making ‘WTF Is Mental Health?’ has been a part of a healing process for me, one I’m still exploring,” Siriboe added. “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.”
Although conversations about mental health may be hard, they are much needed in the African American community. A report published in JAMA Pediatrics in May found that black kids ages 5 to 12 are twice as likely as white kids to kill themselves.
Siriboe also emphasized the importance of having a safe and non-judgmental place to express emotions
“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,” he 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.”
He hopes that he can end the stigma centered on mental illness and encourage people to make sure that their minds are okay.
“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. No one is gonna talk about it because it’s taboo,” he said. “That’s what I wanna end.”