Saturday, October 26, 2019

Somali Bristolians come together to challenge mental health stigma in their community

Members of the Somali community in Bristol have started a campaign to challenge a crisis in mental health.
Culturally mental health issues are often ignored or dealt with in a very different way than in the west, and community leaders are starting a conversation.

As the largest ethnic minority community in Bristol, we have seen patterns of death and suicidal cases recently. We are at a crisis point.
The Break The Stigma campaign is led by Bristol Somali Youth Voice, who want to tackle and normalise mental health issues in their community in Bristol.
Somali mental health event - sport day held at City Academy Abir Shirdon, Shona Jemphrey (Labour Cllr candidate), Mohamed Elsharif, Mayor Jos Clarke, Mohmed Abdi Sayaqle, Moestak Hussain and Said Burale.
They want to educate young people to have the confidence to talk, and get symptoms diagnosed early before they reach crisis point.
The Easton based organisation held a football tournament at City Academy on Saturday October 19 to raise awareness of their campaign.
A report conducted in March 2017 by the Council of Somali Organisations in the UK, outlined what people in Somalis believe the different "causes" and "treatments" for people experiencing mental health to be.
It stated mental health conditions were predominantly seen as ‘God’s will, poor practice of religion, evil eye, evil spirits and sorcery.’ The traditional methods of treatment in Somalia were described as usually providing ‘religious and social support’ which included methods such as ‘ritualistic dancing, visiting local shrines and healing.’
The western model of psychiatry can be viewed with suspicion by elders in the community, and the report pointed at significant barriers Somali people faced when encountering mental health issues in the UK, with many traditional ideas still holding weight. This resulted in a culture of silence particularly amongst men; a stigma of being labelled; a fear of mental health services; and a lack of mental health literacy.
It also highlighted a lack of well trained Somali professionals in the sector of mental health, and suitable information about the availability of services leading to a cultural misunderstanding, from both sides.
In Bristol, this has manifested in a number of serious incidents, including ten related mental health deaths in the last few years. With settlements of Somali people in the city dating back to the mid 1990s, following civil war that devastated their homeland, the younger generation like many new migrants can feel trapped between two worlds. Some of the traditions and attitudes to mental health adopted from the elders are, however, being challenged by young people and supporting organisations. One is Bristol Somali Youth Voice , who have conducted some of their own research in the city.
The research revealed that as much as 40 per cent of British Somalis in Bristol say they have suffered from some form of stress or depression, but as much as 82 per cent are unlikely to contact their GP. In terms of the services available to them 96 per cent of the people they spoke to had not heard of CAMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and Off the Record, a mental health organisation that supports young people.
Manager Mohamed Abdi Sayaqle said: “Mental health is a real issue that some of us deal with in silence without seeking proper help, especially ethnic minorities, and even more so in the Somali community.
“As the largest ethnic minority community in Bristol, we have seen patterns of death and suicidal cases recently in Somali community in Bristol. We are at a crisis point,” he added.
He sees the problem as two-fold as culturally their own community and the services themselves don’t always understand one another. He continued: “There is a big stigma, and culturally we feel embarrassed talking about mental health issues, and this has prevented a large number of community members using and accessing available primary mental health services.”
Mohammed wants to focus on young people , as he sees the next generation as crucial to playing a real part in changing things. He explained why: “We opted to work with young people predominantly from BAME background (majority from Somali background) who have less of a stigma, and are more open-minded than older generations. We want to involve them, and get them to lead a culturally appropriate awareness campaign about bridging and overcoming this stigma. About how to overcome the embarrassment attached to mental health illnesses and seeking help.”
One approach is using sport, especially football due to its particular popularity in the Somali community. He said: “We wanted to empower community members at grass root level to improve their understanding, and to normalise talking about mental health. So doing this alongside football makes sense, young people are mad on it. So we use it as a tool to engage, and kick start the campaign,” he added.”
At City Academy on Saturday October 19 up to 60 young people attended the tournament. It began with a series of talks about the issues of mental health in the community. One from Mohammed himself, Lord Mayor Joss Clarke , and Deputy City Mayor Asher Craig.


At January 26, 2022 at 3:35 PM , Blogger Counseling Support said...

Such a great article about mental health issues. Keep sharing.
Mental Health and Wellness is an important topic in today's society as more and more people experience these issues daily.


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