October 22, 2013

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.

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?

Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.

Follow Habiba on Twitter.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.


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.

replying back to mental health

i am also a muslim who suffers from mental health. I understand that it is hard to explain to your family about mental health. I am in a totally different situation than you. I current don't have family here and I am on my own. I currently volunteer and the people that I work with, I class them as my family because they have been there and played the role as my family. I have come from a hard background which was constantly control. my advice to you would be keep pushing so that they understand and try and get the help that you can because there are people there who can help but its hard finding them. I waiting over a year for my mental health until I had to take it to the highest person and now they are taking it seriously. just remember you are not alone in this and keep trying to get that support.

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

Helping friends

One of the hardest things can be to watch someone going through something....I wrote an article for Islam Today which shares some thoughts and tips on how to help from a human Muslim perspective....I'm not allowed to post links here but you can look it up by searching for "Islam Today - How to Help the Down-Hearted" by Sabnum Dharamsi

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.

Mental health matters

I really would appreciate having a chat with you if at all possible Thank you in advance

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

Religion or Culture?

I think you have confused religion and culture here. In Islam it is specified in the Qu'ran that we must look after both our physical, spiritual and mental health so mental illness shouldn't be a taboo subject at all. As Muslims we are encouraged to seek all the help and knowledge that we can to better ourselves and look after ourselves. However in Asian cultures (or others where Islam is a major religion) it is a taboo subject because many of these societies rely on class systems so any rumours of weakness would affect the family reputation. I'm not saying I agree with this at all but I'm just saying there's a difference between culture and religion. ***I don't mean to sound rude and sorry if this offends you in anyway, I just don't like it when people mix up culture and religion that's all :) I hope you find all the help you need, may Allah (swt) give you sabr and guide you through this tough time. Ameen. JJ xx

This is totally irrelevant

This is totally irrelevant and wrong. Often what we get from our Muslim brothers and sisters is that we're sick because we're not close enough with Allah. Such a load of nonsense and is actually abusive.

Totally Irrelevant

I know, it's disgusting. We as Muslims should be super understanding. The older generation are not even half way there.

completely understand and sympathise

i am also a muslim girl who is suffering with an eating disorder (anorexia with bulimia) and it is the hardest thing to deal with anyway let alone trying to deal with it when your family is so unsupportive and it seems like no one understands. remember that you are never alone and that you have nothing to feel ashamed about. i commend you greatly for the courage you have shown in writing this.

Mental Health and Muslims

The muslim community needs to wake up. I suffer from depression and have had a really horrible time with it. My family denies I have it and I have no support or understanding at home at all. Its not just something you can "pick yourself up" from, it's not you being "lazy", it is a REAL psychological ailment. The exhaustion and demotivation is draining, this is the most difficult illness in the world as it is unseen. I hope the muslim community begins to take mental health seriously and start some programmes and support sessions in mosque or community centres. To the rest of us out there, it is our job to raise awareness for the future generations, and we MUST fight the stigma!

Religion and the mental health stigma

In my experience muslims have attributed mental health as a problem that only affects westerners. They've cited things like the lifestyle and doing things Allah doesn't approve of as well as having "sickness in their hearts". All obviously simply come from an ancient religious indoctrination and not the things we now know are realistic factors for mental illness. Like with everything else though, if you can trace the problem back to the scriptures then good luck trying to change it but you've got one huge task on your hands.

Asalaam Alikum. I pray that

Asalaam Alikum. I pray that your health improves and your family to be more suportive. I feel I should point out that it is not Islam that considers mental health a taboo. Most of the worlds cultures see mental health as a taboo, even in the 'modern' West. Islam holds people accountable for their actions with the exception of certain groups. My research (and common sense) confirms that those with mental illness may be exempt from the regulatikns of islam and permitted paradise inshAllah. The key is understanding the diagnosis and the effect it has on ones ability to judge a situation and how clear their thought processes are. For example, person A with depression may see life bleakly and be very symptomatic but can still weight up a situation and be well enough to make decisions. Person A could reasonably be expected to Be accountable for their actions and judgd accordingly. Person B may have bipolar affective disorder and during a manic phase may make poor decisions such as having pre-marital sex or taking drugs etc. Their state of mind could make them unaccoutnable for the actions or sins. It is imperative to dissociate Islam from cultural practices. In conclusion Islam does not have a taboo view but certain cultures may do.

Mental health and abuse

I rwcently got in touch with my dad after 15 years of leaving home I ginally found therapies which I paid for to tell him regarding mental health and the experience of abuse from family members as a child and abuse as a adult. He told me to move on and to prsy to Allah and said he didnt want to take in the letter.

daring to challenge the status quo

Those who take the path of thinking for themselves, take the path of suffering. Prescriptive intolerance is a defence of those afraid to accept the human condition, and- we can only hope- have no future save their own downfall.

Islamic Counselling - Non judgemental services and training

Dear Brothers and Sisters, it has always hurt me that it is so very hard to find people who won't judge and who will really listen to a hurting heart. It hurts even more when that black of understanding comes from your own family. It's especially sad, because religion and or spirituality can be so healing, and it's so important to be understood in all of who you are, whether you are religious or not. But Habiba, and others who experience any mental health issues, need to be heard for who and where they are, however difficult that may be to hear for the wider community. Not every Muslim is the same though. Because of this, in 1996 we developed accredited counselling training and services which are based on Islam - deeply spiritual and therefore not judgemental. Every year we also try to break the stigma by teaching about Islamic Counselling and Mental Health to Imams and Women Faith Leaders from traditional backgrounds through Cambridge Muslim College. We are a small but growing group of people that believe that Muslim Mental Health needs attention, needs appropriate services. I've asked the moderator's permission to let you know that you can access these services via our website - search for islamic counselling info Unfortunately most of the services are private - we have campaigned with government for more strategic interventions but as yet this has not been forthcoming. Nevertheless we don't lose faith. We are also so conscious that although we are growing, services are few and far between and there is more need than we can respond to. So if you want to learn to be an Islamic counsellor, you can search for islamic counselling info and take a look at our courses. There's also a Facebook group on Islamic Counselling - you can search for it on google. I hope and pray this helps in some small way. Sabnum


Salam everyone, My issue is I’m 5 months pregnant at the moment and it’s been about a week now where I have been severely crying have pain in my heart can’t talk.I look at my husband and I feel it’s putting a strain on are marriage cz he’s looking very upset sort of like putting on a front.Since I left my driving instructor due to me being ill all the time all I do is think about him for some reason obsessive I really don’t know what to do as it’s making me very very I’ll and upset.

Mental Health Muslim Community

Assalamualaikum everyone That’s so true, i’m from Indonesia, and in here is even more taboo. People who open up with their disorder are usually celebrities who known for viral issues like from hijabi but then take it off, drugs, and suicide attemp. Those people come out and saying that they have mental illness, and that what caused them that way. I feel bad for them i really do, because it means that the illness become so bad that it ended up that way. But that makes me and other people who also suffer but seems okay dont have the guts to tell someone or even their families because we scared that they will see us as “crazy” as them. That these things only assosiated with negative things. I wonder, can we make a group support for this? Muslim’s mental health group support.

Prayer and Silence

From the UK Pakistani community I know many women and men who get carried of to quack doctors and fak shaykhs. Their symptoms just become worse. Brothers and sisters might find Idris Salik's Islamic Guide to Happiness: Spiritual Reflections on Depression useful. May we all find peace. Ameen.

What did you think of this blog? Tell us in the comments