WTF Is Mental Health? Ask Kofi Siriboe

Illustration for article titled WTF Is Mental Health? Ask Kofi Siriboe
Photo: Earl Gibson III (Getty Images for BET)

In a new short and stunningly shot documentary titled, WTF Is Mental Health?, Queen Sugar actor Kofi Siriboe explores how the young black community navigates mental health in 2018.


“What’s it like being young, Black, and self-aware? Ask Anika. Ask Jonathan. Ask Clyla. Ask Cleon. Ask Shawn. Ask Ashley. Ask Mecca,” reads the tagline on the YouTube page put up Monday.

WTF Is Mental Health? weaves soliloquies from young black adults with real talk about their mental health challenges, with specific stories, insights and even wisdom gleaned from their own struggles with their brain chemistries; it also talks about how they have navigated them and moved forward.

“Without attention being brought to where we are mentally, we really can’t progress,” says one.

Siriboe credits his creation of the mini-documentary to his own brushes with mental distress and suicide.

“Making WTF Is Mental Health? has been a part of a healing process for me, one I’m still exploring,” Siriboe told HuffPost. “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.”

WTF is Mental Health? is directed by Siriboe, who makes brief appearances throughout and was filmed on location at the historic Vernon Center, an abandoned Catholic school in Mount Vernon, N.Y. The director of photography, Anthony Brooks, expertly shot the piece using light, space and color to juxtapose darkness and hope.


“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 said. “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 [ourselves] rather than what we’re accustomed to being told.”

Need help? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or live-chat with them online here. If you’re a teen looking for personal emotional-coaching over text message, hit our friends at MindRight by texting “Jump” to 886-886 or visit their website 

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.



I guess that since I’m not a young black anymore, I’ve aged out of having any mental health issues. Good talk, Kofi.*

*I know that’s not the case.