The Somali Mental Health Project or Maan (meaning mind) started in 1992, following the Sheffield Somali Trauma Conference.
It aims to help people with mental illness, increase understanding of mental health issues and provide a bridge between services and the Somali community. Saeed Abdi, Team Leader at Maan, was interviewed for the Messenger.
Why do you think Somali people need this project?
“Somali people need access to services from the GP, to the consultant, to the specialist services. There are people in the Somali community who do not have enough English or enough information to understand what is available. We help with interpreting so they can understand what’s happening to them, and make sure other support is in place.”
Do people have problems because they have fled their country or are they caused by something here?
“Some problems are caused by trauma because of the loss of home, property and family members in Somalia. There are also problems that people have met here, like not speaking the language, poverty and unemployment. Mental health is about the health of the mind – everyday worries, from bills to looking after children, lead to anxiety. It can also be more serious. We often deal with very serious problems because the problem has not been dealt with early enough. Then there is khat, which is an issue in its own right.”
Mental illness affects many Somalis in Sheffield, not just men but also women and children. How do you find people who need help? How can we help the whole community?
“When I came to Sheffield, there were many projects for the Somali community but alot are not working now. We need more projects to address all our needs. We help with mental health problems but, if we see other issues like housing or immigration, we can sometimes help. If we can’t help, we make sure people get help from other services.”
“One of the problems we have in the community is that we hide mental health problems from each other and from the doctors. It’s only after a long time when something bad has happened that Maan comes to know about it.”
“The Somali community believe in ‘possession’ – when people see what they think is ‘madness’, they go to the mosque for help. Religion is important and does help but we must also see the doctor because they will help and medicine has helped many people.”
Anab Ali writes:
For most Somalis, English is a second language so the project helps with translations. They also help with housing, doctors, hospitals and sometimes even shopping. The project is very important because every society needs to look after its vulnerable people. The project now cares for 160 people.
Jawahir Said writes:
In our community, there are a lot of Somali men who seem to be depressed. I believe that the reason for this depression is the fact that they know that their lives are heading nowhere, so they start to drink and chew khat all the time. Depression is a common thing. Anybody can become depressed; it’s about how you deal with it and I don’t think that these men are educated enough to know how to deal with depression. They should be taught how to handle it and try to get their lives back because everybody needs a little help.
To find out more about Maan (Somali Mental Health Project) contact 275 8556 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.