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Spotlight on Member: Hayaan Project - Raising Awareness of Mental Health Issues

On 26 May 2016 a workshop was delivered by Hayaan Project focusing on mental health issues within the Somali community in Brent. The session was also led by a National Mind researcher who wanted to get the participants views on digital well-being.

Many of the participants asserted that there should be online platforms for Somalis to access resources in order to help the community to be informed of mental illnesses. They argued that the older generation tend to listen to a person of a professional background than a younger person due to cultural hierarchy. One of the participants stated “having a testimonial of a sufferer on YouTube would help or a person of authority speaking about mental health.”

The participants came to an agreement that an app would be ideal to access information. They emphasised that they would like to access forums and blogs anonymously and filling in personal registration details would make them uncomfortable as there is a negative stigma attached to it.

In addition the participants explained the differences between filling in a personal profile on Facebook and a mental health website. They felt that letting people know about their mental health would be shameful and stated that it is not the same as having a profile on social media. They listed some of the information that they like to see on a mental health website. However, many felt skeptical about the idea of having to contact a psychiatrist via online and telephone. One of the participants argued “the Somali community prefer to see someone in person rather than seeing them online…skype is helpful because you can see the person.”

Towards the end of the workshop the participants stated that changing one shop owner’s attitude about mental health might change the community’s way of thinking. Abdi Gure, project coordinator, argued that “Somalis believe once you are mentally ill that you cannot think or distinguish things. They are physically there but dead to them.” He further emphasised that teaching people compassion is an important element in changing people’s attitude. He stated that Mind are talking to mosques in order to develop partnerships so that that can address stigma as it is the first place where Somalis go to for spiritual healing.

Hayaan Project provides assistance to Somalis with mental health issues. Their aim is to educate and reduce the isolation that many Somalis experience. Workshops and support sessions run fortnightly every Thursday between 12.00 p.m.-2.30 p.m.


If you are interested in taking part in group discussions or want to contact the project coordinator, please click here for more information.