Kofi Siriboe Normalizes Mental Health Discussion in New Mini-Doc

Kofi Siriboe
By Mwabi Kaira

Despite reports of the rising number of mental health case issues and of people committing suicide- the CDC just released a report yesterday stating that suicide rates have increased by 25% - 30% across the United States and just this week both handbag designer Kate Spade and Emmy-award-winning TV host and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain killed themselves- discussing mental is a taboo topic, especially in the black community. Queen Sugar’s Kofi Siriboe, or SiriBae as he is affectionately called, is seeking to change that. 

Photo courtesy of ViaKofi

Before Kofi became a household name, he suffered a huge loss when a man who served as a big brother figure to him died by suicide. He found himself with a lot of questions he couldn't find answers to like most people in that situation would. He turned to art to work through his feelings, but as he created, he noticed there was a huge gap in addressing mental health in the black community. 

Siriboe released a short film about mental health with the grabbing title 'WTF Is Mental Health?' to help further the dialog in black communities about taking care of ourselves. Seven young black people come together to have candid conversations about mental well-being in the short film. In a conversation with Teen Vogue, Kofi explains how his own misconception was a catalyst for the focus on mental health by saying, 
“I realized my own resistance around mental health as a concept and realized my resistance was only rooted in misunderstanding. I feel like that’s common in the black community — there’s a lot of stigma. There aren’t many spaces created for us to openly talk through our emotions and how they affect our lives. We’re so used to compressing our feelings until we actually believe they don’t exist. I want to initiate a conversation among young black people that’s tasty and nutritious — I want us to be excited and willing to be transparent with one another.”
Kofi has ultimately created a film that's so candid and leaves viewers with a sense of peace and understanding. It not only opens up the conversation but leaves it a place where viewers know that it’s perfectly okay to discuss our feelings and seek assistance when it comes to mental health. Viewers have been given the language of mental health and feel included. All we’ve known is stigma and what society has molded our conversation to be. It’s admirable that Kofi has taken this on and in doing so has been transparent as well. He says, 
“I’m a guinea pig in all this. I’ve felt the highs and the lows and I know it’s all real. Being transparent with myself about what I need ultimately allows me to know what other people just like me may need.”
Kofi wants young people to know that mental health is the collective harmony of our minds, spirit and physical bodies. Young people should especially care about their minds because of the information age we live in. We take a lot of information in and not knowing how to filter it can have detrimental results on our psyche. A strong understanding of your mental enables you the power to actually choose and design your reality rather than living in someone else’s. 

Watch 'WTF Is Mental Health?' below and share your thoughts!

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How's your mental health?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her athttp://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com

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