Due to some recent experiences that I have seen close friends go through, I have started to think a lot about mental health, and the stigma that is attached to it in our community. As I did more research on the help and resources that are available in this part of the world, I realised how much shame there still is attached to mental health disorders.Why is this? What are we so afraid of? And why don’t we offer more support?
Perhaps I felt more sensitive to his because of my own background. My father, step-father and brother have all suffered from various forms of mental illness, which can manifest itself in so many different ways. Given that they live in a western society where perhaps there is less social rejection (although there is still some as I discussed with my family today), stronger support groups and there is more information readily available, I can’t help but feel thankful that they do have those resources available.
While looking into these issues within the Muslim community I noticed a strong social stigma attached to this topic, and very few people willing to talk about it. In fact, the information that I did find on supporting Muslims with these issues, were primarily from western based Islamic societies. When I asked a few of my Muslim brothers and sisters from non western communities about their opinions on mental health, their response was that it was all based on “upbringing” and that it can be dealt with “through religion” – and sadly this seems to be the common view point among many in our community. Some even went so far as to say that certain types of disorder were the work of shaytan, or that they were “punishments” – a view point which I find to be particularly disturbing and narrow minded.
I am not an expert on mental health – but as someone who grew up in a family that was hugely affected by it, I would say it shaped my life and in particular my relationship with my father and brother. I have seen the pain and destruction that untreated mental health issues can cause, and the pain that those suffering go through, often silently.
Needless to say, religion can be a major source of strength for people from all walks of life, but depression is not, in my opinion, something that should be brushed aside or dismissed. Mental health disorders don’t manifest themselves in a physical form, but this does not mean we should deny their existence, which we so often do.
I have attached the above link to a very interesting article on mental health in the Muslim community. by Laila Alawa on patheos.com. I really admire and relate to this piece, and inshAllah others will too.
Please make dua for all the people who are suffering from these illnesses.