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LONDON: Discussions about mental health are becoming more acceptable among Muslim communities in Britain and misconceptions are being properly tackled, experts said.
‘Mental health has been around for a long time, but we haven’t embraced it or actually asked for help, and now we need to make it clear to minority communities in the UK and around the world that mental health doesn’t. is not a stigma, it is not black magic or possession of jinn, it is actually a disease, ”Mohammed Kothia, an emotional support specialist, told Arab News.
“There is now a realization that it is good not to be well, it is better to speak and solve the problems that one has, rather than to suffer in silence or to go under the carpet”, a- he declared.
Another common misconception is that non-religious mental health professionals will impose their views on you and undermine your Islamic beliefs, Kothia added.
Muslim communities tend to become spiritual healers who may have no previous mental health experience, rather than knowledgeable and skilled professionals who have ethical obligations and a code of conduct.
“It’s important to seek help in the right place, and I think as a community maybe we have failed at times to do that,” he said, adding: “If the Islam and your spirituality are an important factor in your life, so you should have an open discussion with your therapist or counselor.
Kothia said Muslims have the same problems as everyone else.
For example, the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns have caused stress, anxiety, depression and isolation to affect all groups. Families have struggled with death and mourning, especially when they were unable to see loved ones during the later stages of their lives or to perform normal funeral rites due to government restrictions.
Kothia said the financial implications could become more severe in the coming months due to the pandemic, rising inflation, unemployment – especially among young people – the cost of living and a worsening of the energy crisis.
Personal well-being in the UK during the first and second waves of the pandemic was among the lowest levels in a decade, the Office for National Statistics said in its annual report earlier this month.
There has been a significant increase in the number of people accessing mental health services over the past year, according to the UK’s National Health Service, and as a result, a number of charities and organizations organizations have taken a proactive approach to getting to the heart of the problem. problem.
Kothia, who is also heavily involved with his local mosque in east London and sees the community’s issues firsthand, said that over the past five years there has also been a massive increase in the number of Muslim and other minority counselors and emotional support volunteers who are “breaking down barriers”, and the next step is to get more Muslim specialists in the field.
The other positive point is that young people are now being educated about mental health, in the hope that they will not be stigmatized.
It comes down to education, Kothia said, which is why “raising awareness in the Muslim community and the wider society will lead us to work more on the ground, and the more we can raise awareness in our communities, so naturally, this collective work will lead to a positive result.
London-based mental health and bereavement charity Supporting Humanity runs a toll-free emotional support hotline and said in the past three months it has seen a sharp increase in the number of calls .
Many people feel they are not being heard and fear being judged. So the key is active listening, anonymity and confidentiality, said Kothia, who is also a helpline volunteer. “We underestimate the power of listening and listening.”
Supporting Humanity, which was created at the start of the pandemic and has trained nearly 30 people to become mental health counselors, said older people were among their main callers.
“The pandemic has left a lasting impact on our seniors and their levels of anxiety and depression, and I believe the government has failed to address this issue that ‘shielding’ has had a massive impact on our society.” , Kothia said.
Loneliness levels in Britain have increased since last spring, and 5% of people (around 2.6 million adults) said they felt lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’, and this proportion is rose to 7.2% of the adult population (about 3.7 million) by February, the ONS said in April.
“Some of them have struggled for years and say that they have thought about suicide several times, how they got trapped in a room because they are embarrassed or afraid to go talk to other people , there are so many people out there with various mental health issues, ”said Idris Patel, CEO of the association.
He also said that more marketing campaigns and awareness programs are needed in community centers, schools and universities, businesses, GP offices as well as religious centers and mosques because they are ” catchment areas “for people who are suffering or are considering suicide.
The association also regularly trains imams to explain the differences between black magic and mental health, referring people to professionals and charities and promoting free services.
Suicide and attempted suicide rates in the Muslim community have increased, especially among young people, who make up half of Britain’s Muslim population. A report released in July by the Better Community Business Network, a Muslim-led organization supporting the positive mental health and well-being of Muslim communities across the UK, in partnership with the University of East London, has revealed that 64% of young Muslims reported having had suicidal thoughts. thoughts and almost a fifth said they did not turn to anyone when they had difficulty.
Drug addiction is another big problem, Patel said, as parents don’t get to the root of the problem, are embarrassed to admit their child has a drug or alcohol problem, and don’t seek help. from a professional. Domestic violence too, he added.
Shamam Chowdhury was introduced to the charity after her 22-year-old son was murdered and needed funeral services, and was introduced to mental health and emotional support as well.
British Bangladeshi Mohammed Aqil Mahdi, an accounting and finance student at the University of Greenwich, was found stabbed to death in east London on November 6. Three suspects have been charged with murder.
“I was very upset because I have never been in this kind of situation and one, I just lost my son, which was itself shocking, and secondly, not knowing or understanding anything”, a- she declared.
As police inspectors contacted her for statements, then discovered that she would not be able to see her son until the autopsy, the 45-year-old single mother felt lost and alone.
The charity stepped in and took care of all the paperwork, logistics, autopsy, ghusl (the washing process Muslims must undertake before burial), burial and funeral prayer (janazah), as part of end-to-end mourning services. offers to help people focus on grief.
“When you’re in this kind of situation where you just lost, I would say, your most precious thing in this world, and then in a situation where you have no idea how to proceed,” he said. she said, describing the torment of her experiences, but added that an emotional support counselor made her feel “like there is a light at the end of the tunnel”.
She continued, “(The counselor) would take their time in the conversation to give me that emotional support, just by listening, asking simple questions like ‘How are you feeling today? “And then on the Islamic side, he was giving examples of hadiths or Quranic verses that brought me comfort and content, it made a huge difference and it gave me confidence,” Chowdhury said.
Describing herself as a strong woman and the family sharing a close and unique bond, her sudden death hit them hard, having never experienced any mental health issues before, the whole situation was unfamiliar to them.
Chowdhury also received emotional support for her two daughters, Anjuman, 25, and Hidayah, 10, and the older one also got involved in some of the association’s work, “because helping others meant it would also help him overcome it. “
She added that she had no problem paying for mental health services, but believes the majority of services give ‘false hope’, charge extremely high prices and, in most cases, fail to produce. qualitative results.
Chowdhury, who is self-employed and has been teaching the Quran for 18 years, said speaking, sharing and getting that support is so important, and urged people not to be afraid and not to let society get the better of it.
“Our Muslim society plays a big role in finding help for people because it makes them feel like it’s something you should just get along with (and) we all think sometimes that looking for help, or seeking support, or sharing is a sign of weakness, but it is not, it is actually a sign of strength.