Members of the Somali community are well aware of the stress and trauma related mental health difficulties in their community, however for various reasons, mostly related to how services are organised here in the UK and the stigmatisation associated with mental illness, many do not seek help for themselves or members of their family until it is too late. The key to providing services therefore becomes, finding out what makes sense to people at a community level and building on it to supplement services from the voluntary and statutory sector and ensure the complex needs are address without causing unnecessary, additional stress to clients.
ROTA’s Active Lives Healthy Minds project is designed to help refugee community groups do just that; find out the issues and concerns that they have, and the services being provided by the community groups and then assist them to develop additional services to bridge any gaps between the provision and needs. The project will also be helping the Groups to have their services evaluated independently to demonstrate effectiveness in meeting mental health needs within the community.
Ilays Somali Community provides a wide range of services to members of the Somali community in West London from its centre in Feltham and its outreach points across Hounslow. Services are responsive to identified needs and often coordinated and led by former service users. In response to the need to meet the various mental health and wellbeing concerns highlighted by members of the community volunteers have, since September 2016, been attending training on fundamental counselling skills to help them set up a community mental health outreach service in their area. The mental health outreach support will be complement the range of services available at Ilays. After the completion of their training and as a way of introducing their service to the community, volunteers organised a coffee morning for Somali women in the area.
Women coming together to discuss issues of concern over coffee is nothing new in the community, so the new mental health workers built on this tradition and added a dimension introducing mental health and wellbeing support into the conversations. A short presentation on the value of women looking after themselves in order to enable them to look after their families better, was the theme selected for the very first coffee morning attended by about 10 women from the neighbourhood and facilitated by the newly trained mental health outreach workers. Also present was a social worker from the Adult Mental Health Team demonstrating the collaboration being developed with local service providers.
These coffee mornings will continue to take place monthly giving opportunities for the volunteers to introduce various themes into the conversations among women in the community and also introducing local service providers to a culturally sensitive approach to providing services to their clients and potential clients from a non-threatening, non-stigmatising setting that people are familiar with and trust.
For more information on this project, please visit our website at rota.org.uk or contact Laurie Lijnders at firstname.lastname@example.org or Selam Kidane at email@example.com