Somali Community Mental Health Program
Louisville, in particular, is a place where Somali refugees have made their home in order to escape the violence and unrest of the Somali civil war that began in the early 1990s. Each of these Somali person has her or his own story — some have only recently moved to the U.S. after spending years in refugee camps in places like Kenya,or Ethiopia; about one-third were born here. Some speak English at home, others Speak Somali, some speak both. They share a sense of belonging to the Somali diaspora, as well as the challenge of negotiating complex identities marked by race, religion, and ethnicity. They must regularly navigate the perceptions of who people think they are and who others hope for them to be.1
Identity development is a challenging life stage for any adolescent but it’s uniquely complex for Somali American youth. Somali American youth are either working to meet or to contest other people’s expectations of who they should be and become, which makes it difficult to develop a more fluid, complex and authentic identity — a marker of positive youth development.2
Somali American youth have the challenge of trying to fend off Western perceptions and stereotypes of their identity. For example, in schools, they are often feared as threats. According to a recent student survey, one in three Somali high school students reported harassment because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.. Somali American youth are also labeled as different and viewed as people who choose to resist mainstream norms – because the girls wear hijabs even when they play sports, because they don’t eat pork, or because they don’t date during adolescence. Somali American youth often find themselves defending or explaining who they are, a process that can isolate them from their peers and confuse their sense of self.Reduce stigma in seeking mental health and wellness services and build awareness mental health resources.