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Muslim Experiences of Mental Health – Muslim practitioner perspective

Muslim Experiences of Mental Health - Muslim practitioner perspective
It’s a very broad term mental health in itself. My personal understanding of it is very similar to a person’s physical health. Just as important our physical health is mental health is as important. And we live in such times where our mental health is tested all the time due to the pressures of modern day society. And I think from my experiences growing up and until now when somebody says mental health it’s about looking after your mental well-being, your well-being, how you function, how you cope on a daily basis. And I think that encompasses everything I know about mental health, your general well-being, how you cope on a daily basis.
I would tend to agree that Muslims experience mental health differently, so let’s say from somebody who isn’t a Muslim, or of no religion. I feel firstly there’s a lot of stigma around mental health. So how Muslims experience it, they may interpret whatever they are experiencing differently. So if it’s anxiety, it could be mislabelled as something else, a general weakness or something. However, the correct term would be anxiety, you’re experiencing anxiety. And other times, for example, people feel that they are possessed also.
So it’s about conceptual framing you know, how we frame or where we put mental health, you know, and and I think due to a lack of understanding and lack of knowledge within Muslim community, I think people get help really late because for years they were thinking they were experiencing something very different, you know, as opposed to what it really was. And sometimes I think a lot of people are reluctant to come forward to mainstream services. Because they feel it’s a weakness that, you know, I’d rather, because spiritually you know, they may be Muslims who are quite devout or they feel themselves to be devout and they feel that it’s a sign of weakness.
to go to somebody for that reason, they need to focus their energy more on praying, increasing their prayer. So you need to, I think what’s lacking is therapists or practitioners who understand this, that kind of we need to, it’s almost educating the individual at the same time as supporting them. So there’s a lot of misconception within Muslim clients about what mental health is, I think practitioners that can help. And if you imagine a practitioner who may be of no religion or is not a Muslim who has not had that training then how are they going to support that individual, you know, who has this very different opinion of mental health?
Then do you think that Muslims are most appropriately supported by Muslim practitioners? Or is it sufficient to have the understanding of Muslim experiences and understandings of mental health? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Muslim clients should be supported by Muslims only, definitely not. I think however Muslim experiences are quite important to be aware of. Or generally faith communities, how they experience mental health, to be aware
of their experiences, I think that’s quite important.

In this video, Suhayl Patel brings the perspective of a Muslim mental health practitioner who works in a mainstream mental health service.

Suhayl is BAME Programme Manager at Beacon Counselling Trust (BCT), a counselling charity that provides support for mild to moderate mental health problems in the Northwest of England. A core area of BCT’s work is providing free treatment and support to those affected by problematic gambling, including partners, family, and friends.

He is responsible for the development of culturally appropriate support and resources at BCT, with a focus on reducing stigma around gambling related harm and facilitating treatment referrals from ethnic minority communities.

Suhayl describes his understanding of mental health, and his views on whether Muslims experience mental health in distinctive ways. Suhayl has also contributed his lived experience of mental health problems and addiction to gambling, to Week 3 of the course.

Suhayl draws our attention to stigma, low levels of mental health literacy, and religious coping through increased religious practice without seeking mental health support, as features of distinctively Muslim experiences of mental health. The impacts of mental health stigma and religious practices and beliefs are covered in more detail in Week 2 of the course. Suhayl explains why it is important for practitioners who provide mental health support in Muslim communities to have a better awareness of Muslim experiences of mental health.

In the next step, Dr Yusuf outlines the bio-psycho-social (BPS) model as a holistic approach to identifying and treating the causes of mental health problems and suggests that a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model (BPSS) may be more appropriate for Muslims.

Over to you

Suhayl explains why he thinks Muslims experience mental health problems in distinctive ways, reasons include: stigma, low levels of mental health literacy, and religious coping. Do you agree with Suhayl, is there anything you would add?

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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