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Mental-Health Illness in the Somali Community By Ali Hersi

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Thursday August 29, 2019 - 13:33:34 in Maqaallo by Wariye Tiriko
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    Mental-Health Illness in the Somali Community By Ali Hersi

    Mental-Health Illness in the Somali Community By Ali Hersi

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Xayeysiis Banaan
Mental-Health Illness in the Somali Community By Ali Hersi
The growing Somali community had started arriving in the UK during the early 1980s, mainly taking,jobs as sea farers and sailors. They began to settle near sea towns in England such as: Liverpool and
Cardiff. Where they use to sail to all corners of the world in ships, containing cargo to different,countries. These Somali seafarers would regularly return back home to Somaliland during their
holidays to visit family and provide financial income. They never once intended to bring their,children to the West and other foreign countries, since they were very patriotic about their country,and their cultural values. However, due to the Somalia civil war they had to make the decision to
bring their children to the UK as a means of safety and better quality of life for them and theirfuture.


In the 1980s, as political instability occurred in Somalia under the rule of the late Siyad Bare who,dictated the country and caused massacres and killing of thousands of innocent civilians. Uprising.had occurred, which led to civilians taking action into their own hands. The Somali civil war had led,to such complications that many civilians had to make the big decision of moving to the UK for a
better life and safer future.

The perception of the UK can often be viewed as a ‘’ safe haven’’ for many people coming from war-.torn countries. However, like many Somalis who first arrived in the UK their perceptions were far
from reality. The struggling to fit into society made it very difficult for many Somali people who had,first arrived in the UK. Particularly the language barrier and barriers to the educational system.
Pressures began to build up upon many Somalis who had emigrated to the UK, this involved the,pressures of back home and the financial support and responsibilities they had upon family,members.
Substance misuse was particularly prevalent amongst the youth of the Somali community that first
arrived in the UK. This can be due to many factors such as a coping mechanism to the war, financial
problems and lack of jobs as well as homelessness. Khat was particularly prevalent and was used as
a form of socialising. Since there were no support systems in place, many young people felt they had
no direction this included staying in khat houses and socialising with khat users. This continued for
years and years day and night, and has led to significant impacts to physical health and mental
health. It also provided them with other means of coping such as alcohol misuse, hashish and other
forms of drugs.
Mental illness:
There is a vast majority of Somalis who suffer from mental illness, which mainly stems from the
various points mentioned above. I, the author of this article has been working in the mental health
area, and are very familiar with the problems and causes that engulf the Somali people. I have seen
many Somali patients in mental health institutions and mental hospitals, who have been admitted
for various reasons from suicidal attempts, to depression and severe substance misuse.
According to the experience I have, many Somalis had little or no understanding of the many mental
health illnesses present in the community. The stigmatisation of mental health in the Somali
community should be addressed, people with mental health illnesses shouldn’t feel discriminated
against. Mental health is an illness like any other and requires treatment in order to get better.

Some Somali people who have mental health illnesses are very apprehensive in taking part in many
treatment activities for various reasons. As a mental health support worker, when attending
appointments with clients, I have witnessed many psychiatrists assess what treatments are required,
and the diagnoses helps to assist and predict what is likely to happen once the diagnosis has
occurred. It can also be a relief for a distressed person to be able to put a name to what is wrong
with them. But there are limits to diagnosis, each person’s experience of mental distress is unique
and it can be misread, especially if there are cultural, social or religious differences between doctor
and patient.
Different doctors may give one person completely different diagnosis, simply focusing on the
symptoms can mean that not enough attention is paid to the person as a whole and to their
situation. Their experience may hold a meaning for them, which no medical diagnosis can do justice
to.
The main illnesses within the Somali community are schizophrenia, manic depression (bi-polar
disorder), PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). During manic episodes people tend to be
hyperactive and reckless. This could be caused by khat used, which can exacerbate the emotions
present in the individual. Schizophrenia is on the most debilitating of all mental illness and can
severely interfere with someone’s ability to perform daily tasks and activities. Symptoms can
include: hearing voices, and seeing things that other people cannot see, withdrawal and confused.
PTSD can mainly occur through traumatic experiences such as war, it can consistently bring back
disturbing and distressing memories as well as grief.
In conclusion, in order to tackle the stigmatisation of mental health illness in the community we
need to ensure there are rehabilitation centres with programmes that involve Somali workers who
can relate to and understand the situations many Somalis who have mental health illnesses have
experienced. Rehabilitation programmes will enable the re-integration of Somalis with mental health
illnesses to enter into society, into employment and be able to continue their lives whilst controlling
their mental health illness. Programmes such as: activities, swimming and group outings in order to
minimise depression within younger and generation.


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