Kofi Siriboe’s mini documentary ask “WTF Is Mental Health?”

Most people know Kofi Siriboe from the OWN television drama series, Queen Sugar, where he plays Ralph Angel Bordelon, a Louisiana native struggling to get it right as son, a brother and father.  In real life,  Kofi Siriboe is using his using his own struggles to create a platform for a much needed discussions around mental health in the Black community.

 “WTF Is Mental Health?”  is a  newly released short form documentary directed by Kofi Siriboe.  Siriboe shared some thoughts on mental health and the Black community in a recent Huffington Post articleI feel like with mental health, people always react negatively.  We kinds have a lot of stigma in our community and in society in general..”, he goes on to say “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”.

The short documentary, will likely appeal to many of us in the Black community and young people in general. When people that look like you and use similar language as you open up about mental health, in a way  it gives you permission to do the same, especially if you were never told it is OK to talk about it.  The stigma of  addressing mental health and mental illness is one things that cripples our community.  Siriboe says “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.”  “WTF Is Mental Health?” is a companion piece to short film Siriboe made last year, JUMP, after losing a mentor and big brother figure to suicide.

Watch the short documentary below as young people share their experiences about dealing with their own mental health.  It is sure to inspire young and older generations to think about what mental health means to them.

Photo via ABC News


11 Things that made us talk Mental Health in 2016!

What made us talk about mental health in 2016?  The short answer is a little bit of everything!  From senseless killings to hashtags to Solange’s latest album to Myleik Teele’s podcast mental health, mental illness, and self-care are becoming more common for us to talk about.  Even though there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness and self-care, 2016 can be classified as a year of progress!  In no particular order, let’s take a look at 11 things that made us talk about mental health last year!

NYC Well & Chirlane McCray:  ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Road Map for All was released in November 2015 and gave an outline of 23 new initiatives for New Yorkers img_3189mental well-being (there is a total of 54 initiatives outlined).  The NYC.gov site gives data on why these programs are needed, and one of the numbers that stands out is 14 Billion; that is the estimated amount of dollars lost annually because of losses in productivity.  This astounding amount isn’t the only reason NYC’s First Lady Chirlane McCray made mental health her signature issue. In September 2016 Chirlane sat down with Essence and discussed promoting mental health, read it here. In the article, she is open about mental illness in her own family, which many people in the spotlight don’t discuss.  In October 2016 NYC Well launched and it is a free, confidential connection to mental health support for New Yorkers.   

The Veteran’s suicide Rate:  The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in July of 2016 that states on average 20 Veterans a day are committing suicide.  About 18% of all suicides in the United States are U.S. Veterans, however, they make up only 9% of the U.S. population. Throughout 2016 Veterans Affairs had come under fire for various issues related to the care of our veterans, but the release of this number is staggering.  While providing assistance can be difficult if Veterans are not reaching out for help, the VA has increased the amount of mental health providers, support personnel, and established partnerships with community health providers.  

  

The shooting death of Deborah Danner:  In October 2016 an NYPD officer shot and killed img_3185Deborah Danner; she was well known Bronx resident that had been living with schizophrenia for years.  In New York Times article it states that an officer shot her twice after Ms. Danner took a swing at him with a baseball bat.  NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and the Police Commissioner agreed the incident was not handled according to protocol. This is only one of several incidents that led us to discuss the training officers are receiving or the lack thereof.  Ms. Danner’s attorney shared an essay she wrote a few years ago about Living with Schizophrenia  (The essay IS worth a read!)

Dr. Phil’s interview with Shelley Duvall: Shelley Duvall was a famous actress and not many people knew she had been diagnosed with a mental illness until she appeared on The Dr. Phil Show.  Dr. Phil offered to get Shelley professional help, however, many people felt that this interview was exploitation.  Even though Duvall consented to the interview, those that opposed the interview feel if she were well she wouldn’t want the interview to be aired. The controversy of this episode was so serious, to date, we have not been able to find the full episode online.

Kid Cudi:  Black Men’s Mental Health captured the spotlight when Kid Cudi took to img_3187Facebook on Oct. 4th, 2016 and shared his own struggles with depression.  The post, which has 137k shares, states he has been living a lie, living with depression, anxiety, and suicidal urges. He also admits he is nervous about the next steps but he has to do this not only for himself, for his family and fans.

#yougoodman: According to the Huffington Post, #yougoodman began on Twitter during a conversation between @DaynaLNukolls & @TheCosby.  The hashtag was created for Black men to have a safe place to discuss mental health.  This hashtag is significant because men have higher rates of suicide and also because mental health in the Black community is swept under the rug and not discussed.

Kanye West:  In November of 2016 Kanye West went on another rant during a show.  At this point, a Kanye West concert isn’t a Kanye West concert without at least one 20 minute rant!  However days after he abruptly ended the Sacramento show he was hospitalized in  LA, some reports say due to exhaustion other reports say he was placed on psychiatric hold.  There was even a leak of a mental health evaluation that supposedly belonged to Kanye. Although we may never hear from West about why he was hospitalized it reignited the conversation about Black men’s mental health.

A Seat at the Table:  Solange Knowles released her third studio album on September 30, 2016.  This album was described as a therapeutic collection of soulful tunes by VH1.com and some features include Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland and BJ the Chicago Kid.  The interludes on the album from Mama Knowles, Papa Knowles, and Master P make img_3191you really understand that this album is about the Black experience.  A Seat at the Table is Solange’s first number one album in the U.S. and the song Cranes in the Sky is grammy nominated. This song is the most therapeutic song on the album for many.  “I tried to drink it away/ I tried to put one in the air/ I tried to dance it away/ I tried to change it with my hair”, this opening verse makes you want to hear more probably because we have all had issues we have tried to deal with in various ways.  Cranes in the Sky describes a metal clouds in the sky (those things that weigh on us and that follows us everywhere).  

Bipolar Faith:Monica A. Coleman’s great-grandfather asked his two young sons to lift him up and pull out the chair when he hanged himself, and that noose stayed in the family shed for years.  The rope was the violent instrument, but it was the mental anguish that killed him.”  These are the first two lines of the description on Amazon to Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression & Faith.  This book was published in July 2016 is “both a spiritual autobiography and memoir of mental illness” that discusses Monica’s own journey with bipolar II.  What is sure to make her story more interesting is the fact that Monica is a minister and a Professor of Constructive Theology and African-American Religions at Claremont School of Theology in southern California.  Click here to read more about Bipolar Faith and other books written by Dr. Monica A. Coleman.  

Myleik Teele asked a therapist:   Myleik Teele is an entrepreneur and does a podcast when time permits about lessons she has learned in business and in life.  Curl Box is a huge success and Teele is open about her struggles with starting the subscription-based business, previous relationships, dealing with her achievements.  One area she has also been open about is the fact that she has a therapist.   A happy, successful Black woman that discussed having therapist was bound to get a lot of questions from her followers, so she dedicated an entire podcast to questions for a therapist.  Myleik has met all of her podcast guests, so when she ran into Jor-El Carabello again, she asked him to do the podcast!  Jor-El Carabello, who isn’t Myleik’s therapist,  is a licensed mental health counselor in New York.  The interview ranged from ways to find a therapist to advise for a young woman whose mother is suffering from mental illness.  Listen here on podomatic or find it on iTunes.   A couple of Teele’s other podcasts that made us talk about self-care, self-fulfilment, and self-esteem: How I Found Peace & Happiness: A chat with Necole Kane.  Myleik and Necole Kane, of xoNecle, have girl talk about dealing with change and what finding happiness looks like.  The other was a surprise podcast sparked by a listener’s letter.  A Letter for Late Bloomers & Comparison will make you rethink your own success and question the story we tell ourselves.  Check out a listing of all of Myleik Teele’s podcasts here.

TRUMP! Yes, our President-elect Donald Trump made us all discuss mental health and mental illness.  Even though we questioned his mental wellness at times, our main concern was the way he answered questions about our Veterans and mental img_3184health while on the campaign trail.  While he acknowledges the high veterans suicide rate, he also seems to suggest that some soldiers have mental health problems because they are not strong enough to handle things they see during wartime.  His comments upset many people,  but also made us take a closer look at PTSD and the Veterans suicide rate.  Trump becoming our next president is sure to give most of American some added stress and anxiety so he may make the list again next year!

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Are we ignoring mental illness? 

Mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness.  Every one of us is impacted by mental illness.  One in five adults are dealing with this illness, and many are not seeking help because the stigma prevents that.~ Margaret Larson

Depression.  Anxiety.  ADHD.  BiPolar.  These are some common words were use or hear almost daily in our conversations, on the news, or on our favorite television shows.

We are hearing more about the importance of mental wellness, and self-care.

We see the green awareness ribbons and read the stories about our veterans’ suicide and PTSD rates.

We are hearing and seeing more and more about mental illness, mental health, and mental wellness more than ever before, but what are we doing with this information?  According to a report by Mental Health America (MHA), a non profit organization, Americans are not getting the treatment they need.  Many people may immediately say that there is a lack of access to the help they need, however the report’s findings disagree with that.  The report entitled “The State of Mental Health in America” gives facts, statistics and other data on mental health from across the United States.  The report also list the best and the worst states for mental health care, and Connecticut is at the top and Nevada is at the bottom.  Even though Vermont is the 3rd best state, 43% of adults that have been diagnosed with a mental illness did not receive treatment.  This number is just under the national average because 56%
of Americans with a mental illness did not receive treatment despite there being more access to insurance and access to treatment. Read More


Mama has “the blues”? The Carmichael Show gets serious about depression

Many families share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other, especially spouses.  But how do often do spouses speak about their mental health?  Some moms and daughters and sons and fathers are best friends, but would they open up about being depressed?  In this week’s episode of The Carmichael Show, Cynthia, the wife, and mother (Loretta Devine) is caught crying while she is in the kitchen alone.  While this is a comedy, the response of husband and father, Joe, (David Alan Grier)  is that she has “the blues”, which he describes as some crying, sadness, and excessive sleeping.    

 

Maxine, the girlfriend of Jerrod Carmichael (one of the shows creators), pushes back and the family has an open conversation about depression.  Surprisingly, well maybe not actually, all of the responses are common in the African-American community;  “only rich people get depressed”, “your mom isn’t depressed, she is strong”, and there is an “uncle that hasn’t left home in 15 years” that gets swept under the rug.  The episode goes on to discuss therapy, shows how the Carmichaels deal with the news that mom is depressed.  Jerrod Carmichael, encourages his mom to seek help.  He and Maxine are in the minority as other family members chime in on the subject.   

According to the National Institue on Mental Health, “Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States“.  Depression is defined as “A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image”  according to the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).  It is understandable that many parents, especially moms, feel like they cannot open up or even address their own feelings or needs.  It is accepted that parents are supposed to be the strong ones, and be the “backbone” for their children and sometimes the rest of the family.  Parents are supposed to be an example of  perfection and strength, right?  Not all of the time!! Children need to know that sometimes mom and dad need their own time and that mom and dad have rough days too.  They need to see examples of self-care and self-love!  Letting anyone believe that you have it together 100% of the time is a disservice to your family, as well as yourself.  The better we take care of ourselves, the better we can continue to take care of our families.
The Carmichael Show tackles this sensitive topic with truth and laughter!  Tune in each Sunday for new episodes of this great comedy!  NBC.com has full episodes of season 2 online.  The link to the full episode is here.


The story of Alfred Postell

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The photos first caught my attention, then the title of the article.  The pictures were of a Black man, one from years ago and the other present day.  The title: The homeless man who went to Harvard with John Roberts.  I’ll admit seeing a Black face in a major news publication makes me stop my endless scrolling, but seeing this man went to Harvard, probably before I was born, was definitely worth a click and a few minutes of reading.  I wasn’t prepared to  discover the reason for his downfall. Not to give away the entire story (because I want you to read it too), but Alfred Postell was diagnosed with a mental illness.  Even though Mr. Postell was VERY accomplished at the time of his first “break”, he still ended up homeless.  Maybe it is the optimist in me, but I’d like to think if Mr. Postell and those around him at the time had more information on his illness and more resources available he may not be homeless.

I share this story and ask you to read it because any of us could be the next Alfred Postell or we may know him (or her).  I hope this story will show how important it is to, at least, be aware of mental illnesses, and the importance of paying attention to our mental health, as well as our loved ones mental health.  I want people to notice that Mr. Postell is not violent.  This is important point out because the media tends to only cover stories about mental illness  when violence is involved.  Finally, I believe that this story will provide hope; hope to those suffering from any mental illness that you can get support, and people will want to help you.  While Mr. Postell is homeless, the story describes how a local pastor took him in when his mother could no longer care for him.  I know many of us have so much going on in our lives, however ,I ask that you take the time to read about mental illness and mental health whenever possible, encourage others to do the same, and TALK ABOUT IT.  Together we can speak away the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Click here to read the story written by Terrence McCoy for the Washington Post.


Trauma & Our Children

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This 6-year old’s death may have been a suicide.

 Kendrea Johnson, age 6, was found with a jump rope around her neck and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.  It’s reported that young Kendrea Johnson and her younger brother were taken away from their mother and placed in foster care in December 2013 or  January 2014. Records indicate she began acting out, and her mental health became a concern.  The Star Tribune reports that Kendra “..told her court-appointed child advocate that she wanted to be back with her family.”  A young child being taken away from her family and forced to live with strangers can be a traumatic experience. While many of us are aware that children can suffer from mental illness, how many of us think about the mental health of our young children?

There are reports that two notes were found near her.  One note read: “I’m sorry.”  A second note read: “I’m sad for what I do.”  Is it possible Kendrea felt it was her fault that she and her brother were taken from her mother? Read More


Mental Health Workers vs. Kaiser Permanente

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Mental Health care workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California are on strike this week. Why? According to The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), Kaiser does not properly staff their hospitals to provide the care patients need. There are reports of many patients not being able to get follow up appointments for months. Anyone with a mental illness or that needs treatment knows that delays in treatment puts recovery, in jeopardy. As a person who has been in therapy, the key for me was the weekly appointments. As a person who has a loved one with a serious mental illness, it is necessary that she able to see her doctors once a month, minimum. The strike is expected to last one week; it began on Monday January 12, 2015. Read more from the President of NUHW on why workers are striking here.

Kaiser Permanente is not-for-profit and has one of the country’s largest health care plans. There are 9.5 million members, and they have headquarters in Oakland, CA. This is not the first time the waiting periods for appointments has been brought to light, Read More


Texas set to execute a man that suffers from mental illness

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It’s disappointing that this story has not more media attention until very recently. Maybe it’s because he was permitted to represent himself, that he wasn’t able to have a proper defense. However, the attempts to subpoena Jesus and JFK should have raised some questions. If that was’t enough, being hospitalized 12-times over a 6 year period, due to his schizophrenia diagnosis should have been considered at sentencing. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Texas executed a man with an IQ below 70 . Scott Panetti is scheduled to die today, by lethal injection, for killing his in-laws. It’s stories like this that make me push for increased awareness about mental illness. Below are links to articles about the case, as well as a link the the Change.org petition.

Conservatives Pushback on Scott Panetti Execution (video)

Texas Plans to Execute a Schizophrenic Man Who Tried to Subpoena Jesus

Scott Panetti Death Penalty Update: Texas Prepares To Execute Mentally Ill Man

#SaveScott. Sign the petition.

**UPDATE**With just under 12 hours before  Scott Panetti was to be executed by the state of Texas, an appeals court issued a stay Wednesday morning,  click here to read the full update .


Schizophrenia + A Daily Routine = Road to Recovery?

That is what worked for writer Michael Hedrick.  In a recent story on a NY TIMES blog, Hedrick tells how after a couple of bumps in the road he was able to develop a routine.  Up at 7am each day and ending his day around 9pm each day, he says the routine “….gave me great comfort to not have to deal with the unexpected.”   This routine allowed for the proper amounts of daily sleep, and because “….I felt much more relaxed and was able to finally wrap my head around my diagnosis.”

Read the full story here: http://nyti.ms/1u45BEM