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Lived experience of stigma

Suhayl describes his lived experience of mental health stigma.
I needed to hide it because of my work, what I did in the community. I couldn’t be seen to be, I couldn’t really speak to a faith leader, or an imam, or a friend and say, look, I’ve got a gambling issue and I can’t stop. It would have meant, it would have meant me admitting, that admission of guilt. That admission that you’re weak. Admission that you’re not a good Muslim. How did you get yourself involved in this? You know, it was that initial that was weighing me down, that was a burden. You know that talking to somebody, you know, admitting it. And I only admitted it when I was almost cornered into that situation.
I just didn’t see a way out. You know, didn’t really see a way out. So that length of time also attributed to my not knowing what addiction was, you know, gambling addiction, is it real? You know, it’s all in the head, you know? So it was a bit of both you could say.
Asma: And that was a phrase that you used, you’re not a good Muslim. Yeah.
Asma: Feeling like or admitting that you don’t feel like a good Muslim.
Asma: Is that possibly the worst thing that
a Muslim can feel? Yeah. It’s everything, isn’t it? Because it means a lot. That’s. That’s everything. That’s the be all and end all for a person. For myself it was that to be, to be good, or to be at least trying to be good. And, and I think to let others down. I think I felt more anxiety of letting others down than myself. So how would people think? It was that again, maybe it is not religious, but then it conflates. There’s overlap. But it is that face, that public face. How are you going to show face to somebody? So I think there was a fear of that as well. And that’s why I avoided kind of being in certain spaces.
I avoided weddings, I avoided funerals of very close people in my life because I was just struggling with the shame of the divorce. You know, that’s in itself is a whole topic, isn’t it, to discuss how Muslims experience divorce differently to non-Muslims, you could say. And, and I struggled really badly through that and I isolated myself because there was just not you know the empathy. Again, the word empathy you know didn’t really see people Normalising it, that your experience is normal, don’t worry about you know it happens. So I think That, that being a good Muslim was everything for me.

In this video, Suhayl describes his lived experience of mental health stigma. Suhayl is now a mental health practitioner, working for the mental health charity Beacon Counselling Trust which is based in the North West of England.

Suhayl speaks about feeling like he was “he was not a good Muslim” because of his mental health problem, and how this impacted on his ability to seek support in his local religious community as a result.


Suhayl has spoken to ‘The Mindful Muslim podcast’ about his experiences of gambling addiction, you can listen to the episode on their website.

You can also watch a video called ‘Breaking the Sharam (shame) with Gambling Harm’, produced by Beacon Counselling Trust and voiced by Suhayl.

Over to you

Do you think that stigma affects the mental health of Muslims more than other communities? Explain you answer.

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Understanding Muslim Mental Health

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