Charity Awards 2024

Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre

Breaking down cultural barriers to mental health support

Nafsiyat provides intercultural therapy in over 20 languages to support London’s diverse racial, ethnic and religious communities through culturally appropriate mental health support.

NafsiyatIts women’s group initiative was designed to tackle the profound isolation and unmet mental health needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of domestic abuse. The project is open to all women over 18, London-wide (although the majority live in north London) who are primarily Arabic, Amharic, English, Tigrinya and Urdu-speaking, although no exclusions are made on basis of language.

Nafsiyat identified the necessity for its work through direct community engagement and the evident gap in culturally and linguistically relevant support. These women faced barriers in accessing mainstream services, including language obstacles, cultural dissonance, and stigma around mental health. In response, the charity established group sessions with 16 participants each, aiming to foster a therapeutic community that extended beyond individual therapy.

This not only addressed the call for longer-term support but also significantly mitigated the sense of isolation among the women. The group environment provided a culturally empathetic space where participants could share experiences, develop self-care practices, and build supportive relationships.

The total cost for running the three-year support group project at Nafsiyat was £60,667 and return on investment was measured not just in quantitative terms but also qualitatively, reflecting the profound social and emotional impact on the participants.

The project supported over 50 women through around 100 individual therapy sessions and weekly group sessions each year, alongside additional support activities and outings.

The initiative has strengthened social connections, increased community inclusion and cohesion, and reduced depression and anxiety levels among participants.

Charity Awards judge Julie Wilson-Dodd said it can be very difficult to reach women from these kinds of groups; as they are “really excluded, quite aggressively, for lots of reasons by multiple parts of society”.

“You don’t see many examples of programmes that are specifically aimed at these women, and this intensive, community-based approach felt like the right answer to the problems they face.”

Sharika Sharma, head of business development at CCLA, said: “Nafsiyat are doing something really hands-on, very concentrated, that is great value for money.”

Dr Priya Singh added that the programme, while currently small in scale, could be replicated and scaled up in communities across the country.

CC Reg no. 287819

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