Everyone has mental health, but not everyone experiences mental illness. For those that do, the stigma surrounding mental health concerns such as clinical depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among many others creates significant barriers to treatment. Unfortunately, misconceptions rooted in culture and religious misunderstanding within the Muslim community are often responsible for preventing Muslims from seeking professional help and treatment.
Here are some examples of mental health myths in the Muslim community:
- In order to overcome mental health concerns, one must simply make dua (pray for Allah to help them.)
- As long as my child is doing well academically, my child’s mental health is fine.
- Getting married will help my son or daughter overcome their mental illness.
- Religious people do not have suicidal thoughts.
- If a person is hearing voices, it means they are possessed by a jinn.
- People who are having symptoms of depression or anxiety have weak iman (faith).
- Going to see a mental health professional haram (a sin).
While praying is a positive coping factor for many in dealing with life’s challenges, unfortunately prayer may not be enough in certain situations. For instance, if a person has a broken leg—they will go see a doctor to ensure the leg bones are able to heal properly. Yet unfortunately, rather than being told to go see a mental health professional, those experiencing mental health concerns are often told to “get over it” or “just have faith.” According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 80-90 percent of individuals struggling with depression and/or anxiety respond positively to mental health treatment. As a Muslim community, what can we do to empower our youth and families to reach out and get help? The first step is to talk about it!