Two Doctor of Pharmacy students awarded grant to address mental health among Somali community

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January 5, 2023

Photo of Samira and Amaal
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The American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists (AAPP) awarded second-year Doctor of Pharmacy students Amaal Ahmed, current vice president and president-elect of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy AAPP student chapter, and Samira Abdi, current communication chair for Generation Rx, a Student Chapter Impact Grant Award for their project titled, “Pharmacy Students Advancing Mental Health Equity in an Underserved Racial/Ethnic Community.”

According to AAPP’s website, projects in the Student Chapter Impact Grant Program can be events, clinics or patient education, but should achieve one or more of the following goals:

  • impact patient care 
  • address mental health disparities
  • create awareness of psychiatric pharmacists and their value and contributions as a member of the interprofessional treatment team
  • expand interest in psychiatric pharmacy as a career
  • reduce the stigma related to mental health and substance use disorders

The duo plans to study and serve Somali youth, a community that is uniquely vulnerable to mental health and chemical dependency issues due to factors such as war, generational trauma, identity issues, isolation and lack of access to mental health care. Mental health and substance use disorders are also highly stigmatized in this community, making it difficult for individuals to seek treatment.

“We believe young Somali people have the potential to grow into mental health advocates and lead in making mental health care more accessible for their community,” Ahmed said. “Columbus is home to one of the largest Somali communities in the United States, which presents a great opportunity to address mental health disparities by bridging this community to culturally competent resources and hopefully inspire positive change.”   

The team's abstract also mentions that as East African immigrants and refugees, Somali people in western countries experience racism, have limited health literacy skills and face language and financial barriers.

The purpose of Ahmed and Abdi’s project is to determine the impact a culturally sensitive mental health education program has on improving mental health awareness, addressing barriers to access to mental health care and motivating students to lead in destigmatizing mental health and substance use disorders. In spring 2023, they will launch an education program for Somali college students and evaluate its success in improving perceptions and knowledge of mental health and substance use disorders.

The program will have students participate in training for suicide prevention, mental health first aid and how to use naloxone and fentanyl test strips. Participants will have access to translated and culturally affirming mental health materials, resources and networks for them to share with their community, and will receive self-care kits for their participation.

“Bridging the gap in systematically disadvantaged populations is a passion of ours and through this project, we hope to dismantle those barriers to improve health equity," Abdi said.

Ahmed and Abdi will be awarded $1,175 in grants to fund their project. The team will present their project poster at the AAPP 2023 Annual Meeting in Atlanta April 16-17.