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‘Queen Sugar’s’ Kofi Siriboe Shares Details About Suicide Of A Mentor and His New Doc

The recent suicides of high-profile celebrities like designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and writer Anthony Bourdain have highlighted the need for normalized conversations about mental health. Many have taken to social media to express their own struggles as well as crisis counseling hotlines and words of hope and support for those who may be suffering.

In the past few years alone, celebrities such as Mariah Carey have opened up about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well as Jenifer Lewis of Black-ish who has been very vocal about how she lives with bipolar disorder which she was diagnosed with in 1990, and recently, confirming many fans’ suspicions from his behavior over the years, rapper Kanye West reveals that he struggles with a bipolar diagnosis as well.

The project, titled “WTF Is Mental Health?” is one of Siriboe’s first attempts at production. According to HuffPost, the short-film will explore mental health around young people of color. The mini-documentary will follow seven young people as they share the stigma and challenges they faced throughout dealing with their personal mental health issues.

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Kofi Siriboe / Getty Image

(Rolling Out) “Queen Sugar” actor Kofi Siriboe is on a mission to amplify the conversation and normalize the discussion about mental health in the Black community among young people. This subject is close to home because a man whom he called his big brother committed suicide. Siriboe was lost and couldn’t make sense of it. He did some research and learned there wasn’t much information or discussion so he produced the documentary WTF Is Mental Health? to raise awareness of the big role mental illnesses play in the African American community and why intervention, preferably early and most important, effective, is required.

According to Mental Health America, roughly 45.7 million people, or 13.2  percent of the U.S. population, identify themselves as Black or African American, according to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau numbers. Another 2.5 percent identified as multiracial. Over 16 percent had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year.

According to a study conducted by Ward, Wiltshire, Detry, and Brown in 2013, “Black/African Americans hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. Generally speaking, the participants in this study were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, but they were somewhat open to seeking mental health services.”

African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Men are particularly concerned about stigma and apprehensive about seeking professional help.

Siriboe said in an interview with Huffington Post, “I feel like with mental health people always react negatively. We kind of have a lot of stigma in our community and in society in general.”

In his upcoming doc, seven young people have candid conversations about mental health and wellness.

“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. I want us to be excited and willing to be transparent with one another,” the actor says in an interview with Teen Vogue. “That’s my wish.”