Somali Immigrant Perceptions of Mental Health and Illness: An Ethnonursing Study

J Transcult Nurs. 2016 Jul;27(4):349-58. doi: 10.1177/1043659614550487. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


Purpose: Knowledge of Somali immigrants' mental health care beliefs and practices is needed so that nurses can promote culturally congruent care. The purpose of this study was to explore, discover, and understand mental health meanings, beliefs, and practices from the perspective of immigrant Somalis.

Method: Leininger's qualitative ethnonursing research method was used. Thirty informants (9 key and 21 general) were interviewed in community settings. Leininger's ethnonursing enablers and four phases of analysis for qualitative data were used.

Results: Analysis of the interviews revealed 21 categories and nine patterns from which two main themes emerged. The themes are the following: (a) Our religion significantly influences our mental health and (b) Our tribe connectedness, cultural history, and khat usage are significant in mental health.

Conclusions: Somali cultural and religious beliefs and practices influence their health care choices.

Implications: The findings will improve care by promoting culturally congruent care for the Somali immigrant population.

Keywords: African; African mental health; Somali; Somali mental health; Somalian; clinical areas; cultural groups; ethnonursing; immigrant; psychiatric/mental health; research methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Culturally Competent Care / ethnology
  • Culturally Competent Care / methods
  • Culturally Competent Care / standards*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islam / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Somalia / ethnology
  • United States