Friday, May 29, 2020
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What do the mentally sick people need?

By Abdifatah Dahir Ali

Dealing with mentally sick people is a methodology which should be learned by every individual in our society. Saying this may seem bit strange!  But in a matter of fact it is not. Is there any one of us who has guarantee that he/she or his/her relatives will not get these kind of illnesses? There is no doubt that everyone can get sick for common cold, influenza, Typhoid or other common diseases. The same is true to mental illness for sure. Having these in mind, how do we really would like to be treated when we or our loved ones suffer! Posing ourselves questions like this can simply and logically convince us why we must learn and practice the best behavioral ways and the best care for our sick people in the family and in somewhere else in the society.

We may recognize the importance of increasing our awareness towards mental illnesses if we observe back the way we behave with the sick people. Most of the mentally ill people are chained in homes, looked down in the markets and social gatherings and abused in the valleys. It is important to note that many of these events are not intentional but occur due to lack of awareness or myths.

There has been common myths and poor perceptions of Somali community about the many medical illnesses and more commonly in mental diseases. These myths are tremendous but let me mention some of the common ones:

a) Any one with mental illness features is possessed by the Devil
b)  Psychiatric illnesses are the end result of one’s own bad deeds
c)  Psychiatric patients have no chance of full recovery  
d) The use of taunt proverbs to these people and so on.

Accept or not, we are not better than they and we can get sick at any moment. Believe it or not, majority of these people can fully recover, but we sometimes worsen their condition or become a pathogen.


Any disease causing agent, whether organic (such us germs, substance and toxin); or in organic (notably simple stress), is considered as a pathogen.

Can simple stress make us sick? Why not! Simple stress can rise your blood pressure several degrees.  Stress can influence our hormonal pattern and contribute to infertility. Stress can be a trigger of severe and sharp headache. Simple stress may complicate to a mental illness, such as depression which leads to Suicidal attempts as a consequence. How many people you know killed themselves? How many young adults commit suicide each month, weak and even day? Do they all healthy, faithless or idiots?

There are substances that worsen most of the psychiatric illnesses such as Qat, cigarette, alcohol and some drugs. In spite of their harm, most of these substances are not illegal in our country and are abundant in everywhere. Mentally ill people may have easy access for it, as it has a major role in our actions, interactions and transections. Whom to blame if the elders, politicians, doctors, business men and most of the influential figures of the population are chewers, smokers or have other bad habits. Whom to blame if the government’s budget is contributed at most by the taxes taken from Qat etc. whom to blame if our security arms failed in controlling the prohibited Alcohol and Marijuana. Whom to blame if our trained medical staff using or facilitating substance use. Whom to blame if most of patients receive Qat and cigarette by invitation and praises soon after their recovery and discharge. We should understand by doing this we are inviting trouble; we are causing disease or assisting pre-existing one to deteriorate.


Despite the fact of low general awareness of psychiatrics in our society, it is not the only contributing factor but there are many other extraneous and entraneous factors. For example; most of the hospitals in our country both public and private do not have psychiatric units or departments. There are a few public hospitals with the so-called psychiatrics units, in which the negligence and under estimation is evident on their buildings, staff and patients themselves.

There is no marvel in the scarcity of psychiatric hospitals in the country. There is no marvel that opportunistic untrained traditional healers are dealing our sick people. Thus, there is no marvel the population’s believe that there is no cure for psychiatric illnesses. The marvel is when you encounter psychiatric female patient smoking cigarette and chewing Qat in one of the psychiatric hospitals, while the front board is written in capital letters “NO SMOKING” “KHAT IS PROHIBITED”  “WEAPON IS NOT ALLOWED etc.” this is what happens in most of our hospitals.

There is Hope….there is Hope…there is Hope. Although there are the above mentioned problems and even more, there is also few people who are in struggle in working and looking after the mentally ill patients. There are a few standardized hospitals in the country, where the patients are treated both medically and mentally. One of these places which I witnessed, the men in there had all the basic needs. They were clean by cloth and body, they have football grounds, library for reading and some of them learn training skills. They boot camp in the mornings and play football in the afternoons; Remember, these are only for men!

What about the women? What about the mothers, the sisters and the wives. Where they should be cared when sick! Do they not get mental illnesses like us?! We have only two options when our mothers, sisters or wives suffer; either to keep them in homes and chain them there or to take them to a poorly prepared hospitals or to the cilaaj. We need to look this with extra attention. To emphasize let us remember the story of Dr. Abdurrahman Ali Awale( Dr. Habeeb)—-I have never met him by self, contacted, nor knew him from the people but this  story made me feel upset — he said: “ I saw five young girls being chased and insulted on the streets of Mogadishu by a mob. That is when I realized that mental health was an issue of big concern in my community” it was 2005 and it is the reason behind his establishment of Habeeb Hospital. Events like this can happen anywhere in our country, it usually happens yet.

On the other hand, there are many active associations and agencies here in Hargeisa and the country as whole, those claim to stand for women and humanitarian affairs. Most of these organizations focus on the politics by searching what they call as “women’s missing political positions”. Their role in helping and working for the sick women seems vacant indeed. The word ‘women’ does not specifically mean for those who are rushing for parliamentarian and governmental positions, but also applies to those homeless and mentally ill women in the center of the cities who cannot care themselves and in need for assistance.

Finally, mentally ill people not only in need for standardized hospitals and well trained medical staff but also in need to be treated with dignity and empathy.  They need to be supported morally, understand their labile emotions, be patient to their abnormal behaviors, respect their odd believes, discussed issues logically and to be aware of the abnormal visual, auditory and smell perceptions they may have. They need to be supported by their families and society as whole. Especial attention should be given to the women by establishing standardized especial centers for them. 

Abdifatah Dahir Ali
Email: [email protected]

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