↑ Return to What We Do


Somalia has been plagued by war and virtual anarchy for over two decades that destroyed all the institutions in the country. The tragedy which affected everyone and millions of Somalis fled the country after the civil war and built their lives elsewhere; in 2007, nearly 460,000 Somali individuals were seeking asylum in surrounding countries.

However, for those who remained in the country, the destruction of the institutions rendered basic civil services, including the mental health sector, non-existent. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three Somalis have suffered some form of mental illness, one of the highest rates in the world. Their conditions ranged from trauma related issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression and developmental issues such as autism or dementia. One study conducted in the United Kingdom showed that of 143 Somali refugees 34.8% suffered from depression. Another research carried by the University of Brussels found that the increased level of post-traumatic stress symptoms was related to the intensity and duration of exposure to trauma. and the Somali refugees were found to have experienced the highest number of traumatic events.

At the present, there is a pressing need for mental health services and special education in the country due to the destruction of the little mental health care infrastructure that existed in the country; this left the people with mental health problems more vulnerable and exposed to neglect. In addition, the cultural norms in the country prevent people from admitting or dealing with mental health issues in a constructive way. There is a stigma attached to mental disorders in Somalia due to a lack of awareness and education on the matter in the general population. Due to lack of treatment facilities and education in mental health services, families are forced to deal with these sicknesses on their own, resulting in misdiagnosis and cruel treatments such as chaining or imprisonment. In fact, most “treatments” seen in the country are not based on scientific research or standard medical practice but are rather merely coping mechanisms to stop patients from hurting themselves or others.

The government is lacking competent manpower to assist in mental health and disable communities. This has been one of the most pressing issues in building a mental health and disables services system. Slowly, private health care services have emerged, creating a semblance of social services. International non-governmental organizations, the UN, and international donors also brought health care services to the area. It is clear that the private sector will drive the health care system in the Somalia.

The Somali Mental Health Foundation hopes to bring effective mental health services and clinical therapy and research to the severely underserved Somali regions.