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Spaces for mental health support – a shared responsibility

Suhayl Patel explains the need for rehabilitation centres for addiction in British Muslim communities
I think the biggest need right now for addiction, in the addictions area, is of rehabilitation centres for Muslims. And I think they’re hard to come by. And I have taken clients to places where they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t feel they belong, and they just can’t resonate with them. We know that from our communities where people are sending their children to India and Pakistan for rehabilitation. So I think the need here is that the NHS or health care providers need to look at, because the prison numbers tell you that there’s a disproportionate level of Muslim prisoners. We know from in the addiction area that there’s a disproportionate number of Muslims involved in this, or struggling.
So I think there needs to be specific, Muslim specific places where they can get that help.
So you would have Muslim practitioners, but those Muslim practitioners are rooted in, they’re professionals so they do have that Western training. Do you know what I mean? And also that they’re grounded in spiritual values as well. So I think that kind of combination of which you can’t really get at Inspire. I’m sorry to say, but very difficult there
to get that kind of faith thing, it is very random. You know it’s based on the local imam or the local mosque, what facilities there are, what study circles are going on.
Asma: So practitioners with Islamic knowledge… Yes. Yes.
Asma: …who are integrated into those teams? Yeah. So so you could have like sessional workers who are faith leaders, for example, who have had that training on how to support people who are, you know, struggling with addiction. You know, they need to have that training. I think we have too many cases across the UK and the world around that, there’s a lack of those centres, you know, where, you know, we are investing in bigger mosques, you know, but we’re not investing in our communities’ mental health. I think that’s I think that’s the biggest tragedy there, that there’s not enough investment in this area, you know.
So I think that that’s my kind of recommendation that needs to be thought of, that thought about those kind of services.
Asma: And do you think that’s from the Muslim community itself as well as from the government? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because the government itself or NHS aren’t getting the numbers, it’s in their own interest to fund those projects which will get them the numbers. You know, but I do believe that they should be very much ingrained in how the drug services in this country works or alcohol addiction. So I’m not saying something completely random, and they’re just off doing their own thing, you know, hijama or whatever. But again, holistic, you know, medicine is never talked about well within mainstream is it, you know, for example, cupping, or other general things. I think there’s a space there which Muslims resonate with.
For example, Afiya healing, for example, you might want to look at that. That’s like energy type healing. So there’s all these different therapies which I think Muslims resonate well with, but they’re not available. You know, if you look at the cost of therapy, it’s quite expensive, you know, So Muslims are in crisis, struggling, you know, they’re on waiting lists. And when they do get that support, they don’t feel that, you know, they’re getting benefit from it. So whereas the Muslim practitioners are going private and they’re charging whatever.
They’re entitled to charge whatever, but I just feel it’s not affordable for most people, the people who need it the most, I think that’s a big problem where you have a high number of cases. COVID kind of pointed that out, that minority communities, there’s so many health inequalities, COVID told us that. But now we know that, they don’t even get into the help that they deserve. And if the help is there, it is too expensive, can’t afford it. You know, so I think there’s, there’s there struggle there around Muslims and mental health that the imams are just inundated, can’t cope with what’s going on. And I think that’s a big one.

In this video, Suhayl Patel, BAME Programmes Manager at Beacon Counselling Trust, explains the need for rehabilitation centres for addiction in British Muslim communities.

A Muslim-specific space would include Muslim practitioners who are trained to professional standards in mental health support and who are knowledgeable and grounded in Islamic approaches to mental health. For example, employing imams who are trained in providing mental health support as support workers.

Currently, most Muslim people struggling with addiction, and other mental health problems, rely on mainstream mental health support which may not be faith sensitive. Access to specialist faith-informed mental health support is limited and this leaves Muslims reliant on imams who are unlikely to be trained in providing mental health support.

Suhayl feels that the Muslim communities themselves have a crucial role to play in creating these spaces. He observes that whilst Muslim communities do pool finances to invest in mosque infrastructure, the same investment is not being made in relation to mental health support. Suhayl sees this as a ‘tragedy’. Suhayl recommends that Muslim communities give this more consideration.

Suhayl suggests that Muslim faith institutions and mainstream statutory support providers, such as the NHS, should work collaboratively, particularly around providing training that allows Muslim practitioners to provide mental health support to relevant professional standards. Mainstream services might also consider incorporating Islamic holistic therapies for health and wellbeing, such as hijama (cupping).

The Lantern Initiative report makes the following recommendation around safe spaces in Muslim communities: “Faith-based centres need to work on making their spaces feel safe, non-judgmental and impartial. Consider how this could be done both physically by creating designated spaces, and through encouraging cultural shifts in attitudes.” (The Lantern Initiative et al. 2021).

Over to you

Do you agree with Suhayl that Muslim and mainstream organisations can work together to create ‘safe spaces’ for Muslims with mental health problems? Share your ideas around how this might be achieved.

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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