Acculturative stress, stigma, and mental health challenges: emic perspectives from Somali young adults in San Diego county’s ‘Little Mogadishu’

Qais Alemi, Emma Mefom, Susanne Montgomery, Patrick Marius Koga, Carl Stempel, Joachim O.F. Reimann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore the social factors that contribute to the mental health challenges that Somali young adults endure. Design: In a two-phase qualitative approach carried-out in the San Diego area, in phase-I, we conducted exploratory interviews with key-informants including clinicians and local Somali leaders (n = 7) who are familiar with the challenges of young Somalis. This information was then augmented through a focus group discussion with Somali young adults (n = 4) to gain further contextual knowledge and for access to the larger community of young people for phase-II. In this second phase, we carried-out individual interviews with 21 Somali young adults. Interviews covered topics including the social factors influencing their mental health, typical strategies for coping with psychological distress, barriers to seeking professional mental health services, and suggestions for combating mental health problems affecting young Somalis. Results: Participant narratives indicate that psychological distress (depression and posttraumatic stress disorder) are highly pervasive, and that shame, acculturative stress and ethnic discrimination as well as parents’ dismissive reactions to their children’s emotional problems perpetuate mental health problems. Coping strategies included support from friends, religious activities, and playing soccer. Suggestions for addressing their challenges centered on engagement from their own community to advocate for mental health. Conclusions: Implications of this study are discussed in the context of bridging intergenerational and acculturation divides to deliver culturally competent interventions that improve the mental health and well-being of Somali young adults and aid them in their adjustment to the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEthnicity and Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Acculturation
  • discrimination
  • mental health
  • Somali
  • stigma
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Acculturative stress, stigma, and mental health challenges: emic perspectives from Somali young adults in San Diego county’s ‘Little Mogadishu’'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this