Mental Health Problems and Healing among Somalis in Sweden

Authors: Johan Wedel

Refugees are particularly at risk of mental health problems and they often have special needs that must be met if integration into the new country is to succeed.1 However, there is a lack of research that focuses on the refugees’ own perceptions and ideas about mental health.2 One of the largest refugee populations worldwide is the Somalis. It is estimated that more than a million have fled their country because of the civil war.3 Many Somalis in the diaspora experience anxiety, marginalization, and mental health problems. At the same time, few make use of biomedical health services when suffering. Moreover, there exists a certain mistrust of the biomedical health sector.4 In addition, many Somalis turn to non-Western healing practices when suffering from episodes of ill health.5 Somalis in the diaspora have depression and anxiety related to war, the loss of family members, and afflicting spirits known as jinni or jinn. 6 This essay examines ideas and experiences of mental health problems among Somali refugees in Sweden. It explores these issues from an anthropological perspective by emphasizing people’s own words about illness, healing, and well-being. In so doing, the article adds to the knowledge about how Somalis in the diaspora conceptualize and respond to mental illness.

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