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Understanding the 'complete' patient

By Raheel Mohammed

A group of actors suddenly leap into action and personify the emotions of anxiety, fear, and hope. The group of Somali women who are watching the brief skit clap with approval, and we overhear one say, “this is exactly how I feel”.

It’s an interesting approach to tackling mental health issues, but as the manager of of Midaye, a Somali-run organization, tells me, “We’re a very visual and aural culture, that’s why film or theatre has a better impact.”

 At the event, which was aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues in the Somali community, there was also a conversation about GPs attending a lecture on the importance of cultural understanding in the therapeutic process.

 It is hard to believe that there still needs to be a lecture to make the case for understanding the faith or cultural landscape of a patient. This is especially important when dealing with such a complex subject as mental health which can be affected by emotions, physical pain, social and environmental factors. 

We need to understand the ‘complete’ patient, and use all the tools at our disposal such as faith and cultural language if we are to tackle some of the most pressing health issues affecting our communities.