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
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.
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
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
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
Case discussions were lively and
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
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.
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
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.
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
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