A day to remember, one story of hope - LSYF Mental Health Fundraiser

Last Friday was a day to remember, one story of hope. It was a day where the Somali community united in the name of an important cause; mental health. Elmimag is known to recognise individuals for their achievements; we would like to take a moment and recognise all those people who came to the event as an act of selflessness and played an important role in raising funds for a Abdullahi Jamac. 

I was very blessed to have attended the event and I would like to share with you what I learnt and my thoughts on the evening. Before attending the event I had done some research on mental health in Somalia and I came across a frightening statistic in an Aljazeera article published online in 2012.

“According to the World Health Organisation one in three Somalis suffers from mental illness.”

Somalis are known to be a strong nation, no matter what the problem we go through is, we come out on the other side with deep-rooted strength and pride. However it made me wonder, what about those who are unwell, those who suffer from a mental illness, how do they cope with 20 years of civil war, devastation, famine and terror? How do they get the care and treatment they need to live a full and healthy life. Especially when civil war has destroyed much of Somalia’s healthcare infrastructure, which, in addition to the migration or death of health personnel, means that access to healthcare is greatly compromised.

In Somalia there are many occurrences where an individual who has a mental illness is sent to a religiously educated Sheek to read Quraan on them. It is rare for them to be sent to a mental health clinic to receive medical treatment. 

There have been numerous cases where families often feel they have no option other than to restrain the mentally ill in their homes or local jails, so that they don’t harm others.

Abdullahi Jamac, a mentally ill man from Hargeisa, who was chained near his family home for 17 years, before he was found by Jamal Osman a journalist from Channel 4 News. Jamal first met Abdullahi last year during one of his regular visits to Somalia covering news. 

Jamal was distraught by the way the mentally ill lived in Somalia and he wanted to raise awareness. He filmed a documentary on Abdullahi and his family called; 'Somalia mental health: one story of hope.'  

The documentary shares Abdullahi’s journey; It starts with the moving moment when he is set free from his restraints to receive treatment in a mental health clinic. It concludes with Abdullahi returning to his family home after receiving the care and medication he needed all those years.

After having his documentary aired, it not only received mass attention, but it also rose much needed attention on the stigmatization of mental health issues within the Somali community. 

The aim of this event was not only to raise money for Abdullahi, but to raise awareness of mental health issues within (and outside of) the Somali community, to create a platform to educate and openly discuss this topic. 

A year has now passed and Abdullahi is doing well and has informed Jamal that he aims to open a business and hopefully settle down to start a family. Abdullahi’s story has moved many people. On Friday 9th January 2015, the Somali diaspora from London came together in a community fundraiser hosted by London Somali Youth Forum and Jamal Osman. The target is to raise £3,000 during the event and also fundraise post-event. All the funds will go towards building a new home where Abdullahi use to be chained in Somaliland.  

Jamal Osman, made an appearance, talking about why he got involved in the topic of mental health and how he wanted to highlight the issue through Abdullahi. The audience had the chance to ask Jamal questions about the documentary and his experiences with mental health issues in Somalia. 

BME specialist advisor of West London Mental Health Trust, Abdi Ali, gave us a brief intro into what mental health is, as well as emphasizing the negative effects of khat on mental health. 

Recent research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse says "at the end of a khat session, the user may experience a depressive mood, irritability, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping".

Community activist; leading successful public and social policy advocate, Abukar Awale used his own experiences as an ex-khat user to explain the negative effects khat has on mental health.

Abdirashid Hiraad, Mental Health Support Manager for Mind, spoke about the stigma attached to mental health, the lack of facilities, specialists available to mental health patients in Somalia and the difficulties they face as a result. 

Comedian Prince Abdi took to the stage and lightened the mood. Performances by Somali singers such as Hussein Shire, and Aar Maanta brought the night to life. Guests were able to purchase Aar Maanta’s album and he personally donated all proceeds to the cause. 

Many shy away from discussing mental health issues, so having a platform where we are culturally educating ourselves is extremely important. The fundraiser was a definite success, both Jamal Osman and the London Somali Youth Forum have outdone themselves and I certainly look forward to more events such as this one. 

Some have raised the question, why this event was raising funds for Abdullahi and not the clinic he was treated in? I can not answer for Jamal Osman however I think Abdullahi lost 17 years of his life being chained in a shed because he didn’t receive the treatment he deserved. We as a community should help him build the life he could have built within those years. 

It is known that our Somali community prides our support for one another. Watching the documentary and being apart of Friday’s event has sparked a growing fire to play my part in helping people like Abdullahi get the help they need.

Elmimag is supporting Abdullahi by encouraging everyone to donate via JustGiving and by spreading the word. If you would like to personally play an active role, create a profile and start fundraising for Abdullahi under the LSYF charity. If you would like more information contact our editor Sadiya via elmimagazine@gmail.com.

Here are some more pictures from the event:


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    Mashallah Much love!

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