Perceptions of mental illness in the Somali community in Minnesota

Rebekah J Pratt, Ayan Fadumo, Mikow Hang, Sirad Osman, Nancy Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose - Somali immigrants are a strong, vibrant community in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. However, the legacy of resettlement and the challenges of adjustment can lead to complex physical and mental health challenges. The Somali community is considered to be underserved, particularly with regard to mental health, but the health system must understand the perception of mental health in the Somali community in order to address current disparities. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach - This qualitative research drew on the Social Ecological Model (SEM) and was conducted with the goal of learning more about how mental illness is perceived in the Somali community living in Minnesota. Four focus groups were held, with a total of 35 participants, 19 female and 16 male. Findings - Several main themes emerged from the data. The community's foundations of the perceptions of mental health inform and shape their perspective on mental illness, including the way mental illness is defined. Historical experiences, the impact of trauma, strong religious beliefs, and stigma toward mental illness influenced both the perceived causes of mental illness and views on seeking treatment. Originality/value - This research suggests there is value in drawing on the SEM to as the perception of mental illness is both layered, and shaped by the Somali community's historical and social context. Forming community partnerships that address concerns about mental illness are essential next steps toward improving mental health in the Somali community. These partnerships should build on existing community assets, particularly religious leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 7 2016


  • Immigrant
  • Mental health
  • Qualitative
  • Religion
  • Somali
  • Stigma


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