“Crazy person is crazy person. It doesn’t differentiate”: An exploration into Somali views of mental health and access to healthcare in an established UK Somali community

Catherine Linney*, Siyan Ye, Sabi Redwood, Abdi Mohamed, Abdullahi Farah, Lucy Biddle, Esther Crawley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Background
Mental health conditions have been shown to disproportionately affect those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Somali communities globally have relatively high levels of mental illness, but low levels of mental health service use, with numerous barriers to care identified.

This study was conducted in an established UK Somali community in the South West of England and aimed to explore community beliefs and views about the causes of mental illness, treatment for mental illness, and access to medical services in general. Participants were asked about how mental health and illness are understood and conceptualised, along with the cultural meaning of mental illness and its manifestations in relation to men, women and young people.

Design
Using a community-based participatory research design, in partnership with local Somali community organisations, the research team conducted four focus groups with a total of 23 participants aged over 18. Open-ended questions were used to facilitate discussion. Transcripts were analysed thematically.

Results
The participants discussed the role of migration and associated stress from the civil war and how that could contribute to mental illness.

Participants tended to view the symptoms of mental illness as physical manifestations such as headaches and to describe a strong community stigma where those with mental health conditions were viewed as “crazy” by others. Barriers to accessing healthcare included language barriers, waiting times and a mistrust of doctors. Various ideas for improvements were discussed, including ideas to reduce stigma and ideas for community initiatives.

Conclusion
Cultural considerations and reducing stigma are vital in improving understanding of mental illness and improving access to mental health services, along with building relationships and trust between the Somali community and health care workers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number190 (2020)
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020

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