Siciida Ibrahim

Finding wellness within my culture

My name is Siciida Ibrahim. I was born in Ottawa, but spent most of life in Edmonton, Alberta. As a first generation Canadian, I grew up with an identity that was built on the morals and practices from my parents’ homelands of Djibouti & Somalia, alongside my Canadian values and beliefs.

Growing up, mental health was rarely spoken of within my community. In the few instances it was discussed, it was solely in reference to mental illness within a negative context. Mental health is considered a taboo topic in many ethnic communities which causes individuals experiencing mental health challenges to stay silent for fear of being ostracized. These long-standing beliefs make it hard for struggling individuals to speak out about their problems and access help. I believe that if more people were equipped with basic mental health knowledge, there would be an increased awareness about mental illnesses and in turn a reduction of stigmatizing beliefs.

As I grew up I realized that the stigma around mental health in my community wasn’t solely due to the community’s beliefs but that a multitude of social factors contributed to this lack of awareness as well. Our mental health care system isn’t easy to access in general and BIPOC communities face additional barriers when navigating the system. The lack of culturally competent services excludes many marginalized communities from seeking and receiving support.

There’s a lack of basic mental health knowledge in some communities. A lot of existing mental health literature is available only in English and employs academic or medical jargon, making the knowledge inaccessible to many. Mental health services and promotion programs often operate on individualistic Western philosophy and don’t incorporate cultural values relevant to all community members. The affordability of treatment, scarce number of resources in low income neighborhoods, lack of diversity in mental health services and workers, all contribute to a system that makes accessibility difficult for a large portion of the population.

It’s these barriers that drive me to contribute to solutions through my advocacy work in hopes of fostering a stigma-free community where relevant and culturally competent mental health knowledge and resources are available. I channel my passion for mental health awareness promotion through my online initiative, Stigma Smashed, which capitalizes on social media platforms to share mental health & illness knowledge in an easy-to-understand manner. This year I also organized the Muslim Mental Wealth Jack.Org Summit in collaboration with youth-led community groups in order to cater to mental health needs specific to Edmonton Muslim youth. I’m confident that the landscape of mental health services in Alberta will undergo a major transformation within the next 30 years, as more community led projects are catering to the mental health needs of their respective communities and displaying success in implementing culturally competent and regionally relevant services.

I’m extremely excited for the launch of the Alberta Integrated Youth Services Initiative as it’s a huge step in the right direction. The localized hub will make it easier for youth to access a number of resources that will promote mental health and long term wellness. Navigating different government and community resources can be overwhelming and oftentimes difficult for young people. This integrated youth hub, will serve as a “one stop shop” for resources relevant to young people and their needs and make accessing support easier.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact emergency services (9-1-1) now.