My experience of talking about mental health in a Muslim community

I have always struggled to talk to my family about my mental health problems openly because I was scared I would not get the support that I need but obviously when you live in the same house, you cannot hide it from them. I live with an eating disorder, social anxiety disorder and depression, which my family find hard to take in. This has left me feeling like I am fighting this by myself and unfortunately, because I have very little support from loved ones, I am not getting any better.

In my experience, mental illness is a very taboo subject in Islam

In my experience, mental illness is a very taboo subject in Islam. You could argue that it is a taboo subject in general but, specifically in Islam, I have found that it can be incredibly difficult for family members to understand.

For me, this has always been the case. I did not open up to family members about this issue for a long time because I was ashamed to even admit it to them. I was afraid of their reaction and thought they would neglect me. So, after speaking to my eating disorder treatment team about being afraid to speak to my family, they offered to sit down with my family and explain to them about why I have this condition and what they are doing to help me, which has helped my family understand a little bit and reassured them that I can get better. I was surprised by their reaction. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. Now, it is easier for me to talk to my family about it but they still find it hard to understand fully.

Support is what I need

An eating disorder affects the whole family, not just the sufferer. If I could control it, I would stop this right now and decide to get better to put my family at rest but it is not simple as that. To my family, I am the one who is “crazy” because I have mental health issues. I know they care and they do not understand the reasons behind why things are so hard for me. If they did, they would not think like they do. Support is what I need. They do not like to admit that I am suffering. It is very much like I am a different person to them, whom they wish was not abnormal. I seem to have become such a burden to my family and that makes me feel incredibly guilty.

This stigma has left me feeling rather lost and alone and like I have no one to turn to. Family is an important part in recovery and when you feel like you cannot talk to the people who you live with, your world seems even darker than it already is.

There is nothing wrong in asking for help

I think some Muslim families neglect the issue of mental illness because of a feeling that it brings shame on them and the reputation of the family. In Islam, we rely on God to heal us. If we are depressed or ill, we pray to God to make us better. We do our five prayers everyday and make du’aa (invocation) whenever possible. If you are a spiritual and faithful person and rely on God to make you better, then there is nothing wrong with that at all. I think that believing in a higher power when feeling down is the most amazing thing to have in you. However, combining proper treatment to get to the root of the illness will make the sufferer see things in a new light. God will always be there to turn to but, sometimes, we need to talk openly about our problems to someone who can help us practically as well as emotionally and create a support network of friends and family.

There is nothing wrong in asking for help. There is nothing wrong in going to your GP and admitting that you are experiencing a mental health problem and that you need psychological help.

I live within a big Muslim community and there is hardly any talk about mental illness. It is as if the problem does not exist. In fact, it seems like it should not exist because people are so ashamed of it and that makes me feel ashamed to even have an illness. We need to start talking.

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Comments

I am a Muslim who has

I am a Muslim who has experience of mental illness. I feel that you were brave to write this blog post speaking out about the stigma Muslims going through mental illness can sometimes face. I believe that attitudes need to change; Islam emphasises the importance of mental health as well as physical health in my opinion and I think that some Muslims may not always recognise that. Thank you.

I am not Islamic but Christian

The same stigma occurs in Christianity. But I have found supportive people in my church. I am sure there are people in your masjid or mosque or community would be supportive but even to come out as supportive is taking a risk. I will be thinking of you as I know how alone it can be to have people in your faith community not understand. I know how it is to be thought not to have enough faith in God or Allah. I hope for you u will find some supportive people. Naomi

A friend whose going through the same stuff...

Assalamu Alaykum sister, Thank you Habiba for sharing your story. I have a muslim friend who is going through some mental health issues and I don't know how to help her. She has a therapist but I don't know how to address the issue without feeling guilty and unhelpful towards her getting better. She has confided to me & is getting professional help but I don't think it's working. Would you please give me advice in how to help her? There is very little help on the Internet for friends of people who are suffering especially in the Muslim communities. It is a taboo subject and I have not talked to anyone else about it out of respect for her and I would appreciate some help in how to be there for her without feeling like an utter failure as a friend.

Hello, there are some tips on

Hello, there are some tips on how to start that conversation about mental health and to be their for a friend here: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health/tips

Muslim brother who understands.......

Dear Sister, I understand what you are going through. For years I have been suffering from anxiety and as a male its even harder to make people understand why I am like this. I dont have any money worries, good career and a loving wife and kids. All the ingredients for a happy life but still i get acute periods of anxiety. My advice to you is to look after yourself. Try and catch depressive points early and let yourself relax. If you are using medication then maintain your dose and dont be afraid of going to see your GP. I really think that mental illness is epidemic in the muslim community but no one wants to admit it. The only other thing that helps with me is exercise, its not the answer but certainly takes the edge of things. I also take vitamin B complex tablets which I am not sure if they work or not. Going to the masjid when i am really anxious is my time to complain to allah of why me but im sure god understands that we need his help time to time.

A person like you

I'm also a muslim and I'm stuck with an eating disorder. I've been diagnosed with depression. The thing is some of us belief that muslims should not have mental illness whatsoever if they are close to God. But it's not like we want this diorder, it couldn't be helped. I desperately ask Allah to help me with this illness but it'so hard I dont know what's wrong with me. I need help

ik the feeling, keep a secret

ik the feeling, keep a secret, ive been there. if ur family wont support u and help you through it, im sure u find someone who will. i did, everyone always does

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