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School of Social Work

SSW Helps Host Ground-Breaking Conference on Somali Mental Health

Mental health is not a common topic of conversation in the Somali community. That makes a conference to highlight global mental health and Somalia, held at the University of Minnesota in July 2016, a ground-breaking event.

The Somali Mental Health Professionals Network in partnership with the Somali Mental Health Foundation organized the event, titled Unlinking the Chains: Making Global Mental Health a Priority. The title reflects the fact that, in Somalia, some people with mental illnesses are kept in chains. To learn more about mental health issues in Somalia, please visit the Somali Mental Health Foundation website and watch the video Life in Chains: The Plight of Somali's Mentally Ill.

photo of Dr. Joseph Merighi and Dr. Fartun Mohamud

Dr. Joseph Merighi of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work worked with Dr. Fartun Mohamud, chair of the conference, to make this ground-breaking event possible.


One goal of the conference was to bring together mental health practitioners, researchers, graduate students, policy makers, and consumers of mental health services to share information and begin to collaborate on solutions.


Speakers included Abbas Jama, MD, psychiatrist and chairman of the board of the Somalia Mental Health Foundation; Thabit Mohamed, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia; John Allegrante, Ph.D., professor of health education at Columbia University, Teachers College; Fartun Mohamud, Ed.D., licensed mental health counselor in Palm Beach County, Florida and Somali Mental Health Foundation board member; Abdia Mohamed, publishing associate at The World Bank; Hamdi Mohamed, Ph.D., a social historian and author of Gender and the Politics of Nation Building: (Re)constructing Somali Women’s History; and Patricia J. Shannon, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work who is developing mental health screening tools and treatment resources for Minnesota’s refugees.

Dr. Fartun Mohamud chaired the conference, and Dr. Joseph Merighi, a faculty member at the University’s School of Social Work, worked with her in the planning and execution of the event. The Somali Mental Health Foundation hopes to make it an annual event.

Pictured on the landing page: School of Social Work Associate Professor Patricia J. Shannon, left, and Mr. Yussuf Shafie (MSW ’14), second from left, participate in a panel discussion at the conference. To Shafie’s right is Dr. John Allegrante, professor of health education at Columbia University, Teachers College, and Ms. Abdia Mohamed of The World Bank.