Every culture has its fairy tales and storytellers, and in Somali folklore, Egal Shidad is a character known as a “wise fool.” Now Egal Shidad is the star of a new production that focuses on mental health issues in the Somali communities of Minnesota. The program airs Monday, October 6 on both radio and TV. While the program uses the Somali language, it will also be translated into English, and will be available online.
Egal Shidad: Stories of Somali Health
Monday, October 6, 2008
7:00. – p.m SPNN Channel 19 on St. Paul Cable
7:30 p.m. – KFAI FM 90.3/106.7
In the program, as Egal Shidad goes through life, he faces many challenges that lead to mental illness, and he is eventually healed. The program also features interviews that address cultural differences in the perceptions about mental health and its social stigma. Information is given about accessing available resources.
Producer of the program is Mukhtar Gaaddasaar, who hosts Somali Voices on KFAI. This is Gaaddasaar’s first effort at producing. He says, “I see it as an opportunity to give me skills while bringing something back to the community.”
The program is part of the first year of a three-year project that is funded by the Robert Wood Foundation and the Benton Foundation. Lillian McDonald is the Executive Director of ECHO, an emergency and community health outreach organization. She was instrumental in obtaining the grant. McDonald says her organization went to the Somali community and asked them what health-related information they most needed, and that community said mental health informaton was needed.
“Egal Shidad is filling the gap in the community for this type of information,” McDonald says. “I am really hopeful that this will be a breakthrough for the community to identify, understand, and provide support for mental health.”
Collaborating partners for the project are Minnesota Counties Research Foundation – ECHO, Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota (CSCM), Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), KFAI Community Radio Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN.
Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, is a freelance writer for the Twin Cities Daily Planet.