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Mental health stigma for migrant Muslim communities

Tabasum Munawar, Mental Health Support Coordinator at Diverse Cymru, explains mental health stigma for migrant Muslim communities
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For them, ok they have a few barriers. Language is one of the biggest barriers. Integration is one of the biggest barriers, and they are scared. They are very much scared of processes here. They find processes here very overwhelming, for example, accessing NHS. Something as simple as going to the GP can be, you know, a minefield for them. They would never come forward to to ask for support unless it’s someone talking to them that really understands their point of view, where they’re coming from, because don’t forget language is, it’s a huge issue for them. For example, I have a huge Turkish community. I am actually trying to learn Turkish to integrate with them.
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It’s the other way around here, I’m trying to integrate with them. They attend, they are my biggest attendees of Book Club because they’re trying to improve their English. I’ve got, you know, maybe two confident English speakers in that group that translate. I’ve got a translation app. And connecting with them can be very, very difficult because there is, there is so much barriers and mental health to them is like, you know, I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong with me. And you can tell sometimes from the conversations they’re having you know, there is you know, you do need, you do need extra support, you do need extra help.
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But they’re denying it because they you know, they don’t, for them, they already have a barrier of almost like a tag that they are an immigrant in this country. They do not need the tag of being mentally ill I suppose. And what my aim is trying to show them mental health in a different way that, you know, mental wellbeing can be achieved in a different way. And even if they don’t choose to go ahead and get that support, they have other tools they can use to, you know, to help improve their mental wellbeing. You know, I’m not trying to, I’m not trying to I suppose, solve a problem or you know, eradicate an issue that they have.
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I’m just trying to show them if this happens, you’ve got this tool that you can use. So that’s kind of my aim with them. And then that opening up side of things come
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really. So yeah, there is, it’s all, it’s linked. Being a Muslim and being an asylum seeker is linked very much because what we learn in our home country, we bring that across with us. And unfortunately it’s very negative, especially when it comes to Islam for them and mental wellbeing or mental health. It’s very negative.
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Asma: And what kind of misconceptions do they have around the relationship between mental health and Islam? If you just give me maybe two examples. Okay, um, I think I would say that the biggest misconception they have is that if they’re, you know, they have a disease and therefore they’re not really, you know, they’re not really a Muslim because they’re supposed to be strong and the Quran is supposed to help them. So for them, it’s a disease you know, that they can’t be cured so they’re not a Muslim. That’s kind of the biggest thing that comes across.
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The other thing I think this misconception about mental health, with mental health in Islam or being Muslim, is that they’re never going to be accepted in society. And they will always be looked as an outlier if they have mental health issues, mental ill health. That’s kind of the two I would say, the biggest fears being a Muslim and Islam and mental health
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Asma: so being accepted in society, is that within Muslim communities? Yeah, yeah. Within Muslim communities because they feel it’s a disease and some people even feel so strong that the disease is spreadable. They do feel that that can spread you know, that sort of if one person has this mental ill health disease then it can go on to someone else. And it’s almost like, you know, staying away. It’s even worse in a physical condition actually because it’s like, oh, stay away from this person because there’s something wrong with them.

In this video, Tabasum Munawar, Mental Health Support Coordinator at Diverse Cymru, explains the ways in which migration, and migration status, can mean that stigma is a particular barrier to accessing mental health support.

Tabsaum explains that language is a significant barrier for Muslims who have recently migrated to Britain. Migrants can also be wary of processes, such as those involved in accessing healthcare through the NHS. Migrant status can itself be a negative label and a source of discrimination, recent migrants may have concerns that if they talk about their mental health problems, an additional negative label will be attached to them.

Tabasum suggests that recently arrived Muslim migrants may have been socialised, in their country of origin, into misconceptions around the relationship between Islam and mental health, for example seeing mental health problems as a punishment for not being ‘a good Muslim’.

Over to you

Share your ideas around overcoming language barriers when providing mental health support for recently migrated people who are not fluent in English? For example, how would you describe a common mental health problem such as depression?

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Understanding Muslim Mental Health

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