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Bristol Somali group tackles mental health and cancer

Sunday December 4, 2022

By Osob Elmi

Aisha Mohamed, 25, attended with her friend and felt "inspired" by the stories shared. BBC

A group of young people, some who have faced challenges with mental health issues or cancer, has set up a charity to help each other cope.

The charity aims to raise awareness of what it calls "taboo" issues in the Somali and Muslim community in Bristol.

More than 200 people attended one of its events to encourage talking about mental health and cancer, described as "emotional" and "refreshing".

Speakers from Bristol, Cardiff and London shared their lived experiences.

Muna Ismail, 21, is CEO of the charity, called the Righteousness and Good Deeds Organisation, which she founded with her sister Raqiya.
She said: "The idea was influenced by my own personal life events, especially this year, as my family members have been diagnosed with cancer.
"This took a massive toll on my mental health and, after speaking to several people , I realised that they also had issues in regards to their mental health.

More than 200 attendees came to the event organised in Bristol

The event is set to be the first of many in the city

"It's important for us to tackle these issues head-on for the betterment of our community.

"I feel like it isn't spoken about enough and as much as you try to avoid the topic, mental health is real and it needs to be addressed.

"I hope to get rid of the stigma attached to mental health within the Somali community and to also raise awareness for cancer, as the patients have rapidly increased within the Somali community."

Salma Aided was one of the organiser who put together a fundraiser

Salma Aideed 25, from Bristol, is a senior health care coordinator in Bristol and is one of the organisers.

She said: "It's important to create spaces like this to break down barriers our parents weren't able to break.

"These barriers were passed down by generations and generations.

"The next event will bring parents and kids together to normalise these conversations," she added.

Adnan, 24, is sharing his mother's story to raise awareness about the importance of mental health

Adnan Sharif, 24, was among those supporting the event by sharing his story about losing his mother to anxiety and depression.

Mr Sharif's mother, Zahra Sharif, beat cancer in 2019 but in January she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and died in October 2022.

"My mum suffered in silence, we used to read Qur'an on her until I started to say my mum needs medical help.

"Everyone takes depression as something not spoken about, we should all be there for one another."

Adnan (left) with his mother Zahra Sharif

Mr Sharif said he was removed from a Turkish Airlines flight from Antalya to London shortly after hearing the news of his mother's death.

In a video viewed more than 70,000 times on Instagram, he can be seen being escorted off a plane while visibly upset.

He said more people needed to realise the impact that mental health conditions could have.

The BBC approached Turkish Airlines for a comment, but it declined.

Abdi Osman travelled from Cardiff to share the story of his brother who was diagnosed with cancer

Abdi Osman, 25, travelled from Cardiff to talk about the importance of recognising illnesses and utilising support around you.

"When my brother got told he had grade 4 glioblastoma [a brain tumour] and had a few months to live, my whole world came crashing down.

"Spreading this awareness and making people aware of the different types of mental health and cancers out there will help our people become more educated." Mr Osman added.

Maryama Warsame is a Orthoptist who felt "emotional" realising there is a community to offer support with health issues

Almost £1,000 was raised by the fundraiser, which will go towards a Go Fund Me page set up by Mr Sharif after his mother's death, as well as to an international mental health charity.

The next event will bring parents and their children together to talk across the generations about the issues they face, the organisers have said.

Righteous and Good Deeds Organisation was established in 2020 by Muna Ismail and Raqiya Ismail


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