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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aidrous Elmi Yousuf

My name is Aidrous Elmi Yousuf and I was born in Hargaisa in 1984. I am the third person in my family. I have 13 siblings: 5 bothers and 8 sisters.

My father is policeman and my mother is fruit seller in the open market in Borama where we live now. I went to school in Borama. Borama is the capital city of Awdal region, one of the regions in Somaliland.

All the way back to my childhood, I had a dream of becoming a doctor one day in my life. I had a special interest in science so I excelled in science.

As a result my passion of pursuing being a doctor strengthened and strengthened. There were 20 vacant positions for a place at medical school and 500 applicants competing for a place. To my happiness, I was one of the 20 students who got that chance and made it. For me, that day was like a dream come true.

MHgap students and Dr Peter

What also drives success is the presence of the foreign assistance brought by King’s College and THET who changed the course of our learning positively.  We are also given the chance of indirectly going to UK since we have  access to the valuable website Medicine Africa which  was set up for the medical students of the developing world to keep them up-to-date.


My journey all the way from Borama to Hargeisa which is 120 km away from Hargeisa was exciting. Imagine never been to that area or outside Boroma. I had never seen nor visited before.  We set out about 3:00 pm  7th May, 2013 from Borama together with my classmates filled with joy and I bet each and everybody of my classmates had felt the same emotions of going and grabbing that experience.  Having jokes and sometimes making comedy while on the bus made the distant journey closer and more comfortable.

I was longing from the day I was told that I would take psychiatry in Hargeisa with our counterparts of Hargeisa university 5th year medical students. For me, having long life affection to psychiatry, this news was so special and dear to me because I thought that 9 day long sessions would alter a lot in my knowledge. We reached our final destination to Hargeisa about 7:00 pm. We were welcomed warmly by 5th year medical students of Hargeisa University to which we are so grateful for making us feel at home. 

Hargeisa Group hospital
We started our very first lecture in Hargeisa Group hospital with thorough introduction made by Dr Lauren and Dr Peter to us, though I knew both of them by name and by sight because I met them in Borama when I was an actor of psychiatry patient back to 2011 in medical student psychiatry exams.

Case discussions were lively and interesting...

There were different parts of teaching I experienced through these 9-day sessions I took: case-discussions, lecturing, role-play.  Case discussions were lively, and interesting. I was particularly moved by teaching methodology used by Dr Lauren and Dr Peter whose teaching inspired me.

The role model was particularly amazing, and I liked the role play most, at times, it was like true psychiatry story put into reality. Going to psychiatric ward was a life-time experience.


That remembrance remained fresh in my mind.  In class, we were listening actively and attentively to every details illustrated by Dr Peter and Dr Lauren.

Aidrous (left) with Dr Lauren
After each class, we had to go to Hargeisa mental ward with groups working together and we had 30 minutes to complete a history. It was a life-time experience. Since it was my first time ever to get access to such great deal of mentally ill patients I felt panic inside myself while keeping calm so that they would not notice that I was afraid of them.

To mask such fear, I had to make plastic-smile to normalize!

Getting into groups working together was absolutely so great, because we had to discuss before we come back to class to demonstrate and share what we had written.

Hargeisa Group Hospital

The most important thing I learned from Mental Health Gap Action Programme is to be systemic, and approach the patient as a whole rather than focusing on mental illness.

Our group contained 8 students from both Hargeisa and Borama universities, among our group, four of us had to present the history: one has to read loud the history to the students, other one had to formulate, other one had to tell MENTAL STATE EXAMINATION, and the last one has to manage the patients. All the other students would comment positive-criticism and surprisingly our group members had to also tell each what they do differently if they shall do better than that!

It was a challenge within a challenge!

One of the other experiences I know is that when a person loses his mind, I mean becomes mentally ill. The first thing they get in treatment is traditional healer, and religious ways. These traditional healers have their own ways of treating these mentally ill patients. They give herbs, and make talisman against the devils eye.. and etc...

In the religious way of treating, people in Somaliland have undoubtedly been using Qura’an recitation for many decades for the betterments of the mentally ill patients. So religious treatments have worked and people still use Quran as a treatment not only psychiatry but also other ailments.

There are still many myths about psychiatric patients which need to be proven false and convince those who still believe. One of these myths about psychiatry is: it is caused by devil, and misfortune. Some people believe that people who are religious never get dementia just because they are good religious people.

All these experience I was exposed gave the highest boost to my future career. That has given me a clear cut goal which pursuing my dream of making an excellent psychiatrist.

In Somaliland psychiatric doctors are so scarce and psychiatric patients are so abundant and out-of care.

My previous psychiatric view has always been positive despite many people labelling psychiatrists as ending up as psychiatry-patients themselves in life sooner or later. After being exposed to knowledge that I gained from the psychiatric experts: Dr Lauren and Dr Peter, now I am laden with that knowledge and most importantly, the mhGap (Mental Health Gap Action Programme) which is an everlasting asset I have to use for the foundation of my future career: this is psychiatrist. Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP) is self-explanatory, concise, and complete book that can be worked where even there is no psychiatrist.

The most important thing I learned from Mental Health Gap Action Programme is to be systemic and approach the patient as a whole rather than focusing on mental illness. For instance, you should always rule out organic causes before everything. I also learned that physical illness affect mental illness, so does mental illness affect physical illness.

The psychiatric classes were lively bringing many experiences into discussions, and the different ways people seek help when they are mentally ill. We (students of AMOUD AND HARGEISA UNIVERSITIES) swap ideas. That was the most fantastic part I liked most.

Soon after I came back from Hargeisa to Borama, I went straight to the mental ward in Borama General Hospital; there I met psychiatric patients who were making a great sense for me because now I could easily know the diagnosis. I felt helpful and caring for the needy, I don’t know in UK but in Somaliland the mentally ill patients are stigmatized, neglected,  and worst of all physically abused.

I hope  psychiatric patients stay healthy, well-cared, protected forever.

Aidrous Elmi Amoud University

MHGap student

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Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Aidrous, this is a brilliant record of KTSP teaching from your perspective, it is really inspiring to hear about your passion for psychiatry and it will be great for medical students to read before they start the course. Congratulations on getting your account published on the website- Susie (King's THET Somaliland Partnership, clinical lead)
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Aidarous, let me congratulates you on this pieceof writing. I am very much excited about your understanding of the challenges in this country. I will be very much interested in to help you in the best way possible.
I am happy with the fact you want to become a psychiatrist!

Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
thank you for posting this life-time experience
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
congratulation bro Dr Aidarous for your achievements and real experience you have shared us thank you, I wish you success in your career I am sure you will bring real difference the health system of somaliland,
Re: Borama, Somaliland
well done and touching article. really inspiring both from you and all the readers, and as I see you we do looking forward what you well said and many more. many congrats and all way to filled future of success my old childhood classmate..
Re:Borama ,Awdal
congrats , iam so happy for my student Aidarus for his drive for success , i know he is a hardworker

you'll excell insha allah
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Well written article and well said how we Somalis view mental health. Thank you for sharing your story with us and I hope it inspires many more Somali students like you to study psychiatry. There is no doubt that our country needs it a lot.
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Thanks for this well written article by an aspiring Somali Psychiatrist and good luck with your effort. I am sure you'll enjoy psychiatry as I do.
Really, Aidarous is hero we have here in Borama. I am very proud of him because of being my English Teacher at Sh.Mahdi Center. I am not surprised such article his because know him who is he. Congrats a lot.
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Thank you all for your motivation
Re: Hargeisa, Somaliland - Aid
Thank you all
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        About this blog

Aidrous Elmi Yousuf

Aidrous is a medical student in Boroma, Somaliland. He describes in his own words his first trip out of Boroma to Hargeisa for his mental health attachment.