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Islamically-sensitive approaches to mental health support – a manager’s perspective

A Muslim-sensitive approach to mental health support: a manager’s perspective
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Asma: Can you tell me a little bit about your approach to this as a manager and how and why you let somebody like Tubasum to how she provides support? Our service users or clients, you know, Are at the forefront of all, you know, our support so you have to be flexible if you can. And I know always you cannot be flexible.
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If you can, I think to make simple adjustments like that because for instance, if I’m working with a service user and I know it’s Ramadan, I know they’re not going to be there during the the first part of the morning, afternoon is better for them. And sometimes for some clients, mornings may not be best for them. And it doesn’t have to be because of Ramadan, but it could be because they’re on medication and it makes them more sleepy. So making a simple adjustment to make an appointment in the afternoon where they’re available, it’s only going to benefit them. And benefit you, because you’re going to be seeing your client or your service user that day.
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So it’s just having these small adjustments. And I think if somebody has the understanding that
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you have to find solutions to problems, they only become a problem if you can’t find a solution. And for me, there’s always a solution, solutions to problems, and it’s just making them small adjustments. Doesn’t matter if we call them in the afternoon, we are going to have the same result you know, if there’s Ramadan or if there’s not Ramadan, If they can’t wake up early in the morning, morning are not good for them, then we can just adjust to the afternoon. It’s about being flexible, but it’s understanding who you’re working with and whether that’s cultural, culturally or for religious purposes, you have to, to make adjustments.
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Asma: So what’s the aim of the work that you do at Diverse Cymru, how would you describe it? Is it recovery? Is it easing people’s problems? Is it helping them cope? The aim of the work is for the service user to have the support they need and to you know, reduce isolation. You know, if somebody’s got low confidence self-esteem. It could be supporting them alongside medical practitioners because we don’t prescribe medication. What we do support with is more emotional, emotional aspects of things. And yes, we can advocate on their behalf with other services need be with the GP, hospital appointments, you know, whether that’s housing, education, you know, we can do all these things, you know, for them.
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But the, the, the goal is to empower that person to live independently. So in the very beginning, there could be lots of intensive work to do with that person. But the goal will always be to empower that person to live independently.
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Asma: And is there any kind of aspect of advocating, you said that you advocate across a range of other services housing or medical care. Is there a particular, yeah, is there a particular, a particular agency that you find that you have to advocate for people with mental health problems with more often? GP’s, GP’s are the one that we advocate quite a lot. And that is because when a, a person from minority ethnic go to their doctor, they they may not be understood or they can’t explain what mental health is. So a lot of the time mental health will develop in a physical, you know, physical form.
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So they go to the doctors for quite a long time with these physical ailments they’re saying, but actually they’re to do with mental health. So it’s getting that across to their GP.
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So that’s one of the main things and, and it’s working alongside other practitioners, you know, whether that’s in health Or, or any other organisation
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so they have a better understanding of mental health, and they have a better understanding of mental health within black minority ethnic communities because there are cultural differences. It’s important for somebody to understand the cultural side and religious side of, of, of people to best deal with them.
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Asma: And just following on from that then, how do you feel that the religious lives of Muslims can be better understood by mental health practitioners? Like what, what do you think they need to kind of understand how Muslims experience mental health better? I think it can be a very complex issue because, you know,
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I don’t expect somebody to go into, you know, the religion completely because obviously within Islam, you have different schools of thought, people, we’re all Muslims but we may do something slightly different to one. So you can’t say that one because there’s one Muslim that we’re all the same because we do things differently. So you have to treat that individual from their perspective of what they believe in. And just look at that, that one person and not judge everybody or assume everyone is the same. So I think that’s the first and foremost for practitioners to understand, don’t put everyone together as just, you can’t, you need to treat everyone as an individual.
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Asma: Okay. Thank you.

This step includes an excerpt from an interview with Samira Salter. Samira is Mental Health Support Manager at Diverse Cymru, a charity that provides mental health support to ethnic minority communities in Cardiff, Wales.

Many of the people supported by Diverse Cymru are Muslim. For example, they run a mental health support group for recent migrants and over 90% of the group of 50 are Muslim.

Asma had previously spoken to two Muslim mental health support workers at Diverse Cymru, and they had shared examples of how they worked with Muslim people and groups, making small adaptations to accommodate religious beliefs and practices. For example, one support worker explained how she had adapted a social coffee morning, changing it to a group Quran recitation session during Ramadan, to accommodate the majority of the group who were fasting at the time. When Asma asked these support workers what had enabled them to make these adjustments to their support work, they both said that it was because of their knowledge of Islam and Muslims, the relationships and trust they had with the groups and individuals they worked with, and most importantly, the leadership of their manager Samira who encourages them to work responsively and sensitively to provide mental health support.

During this interview, Asma had the opportunity to ask Samira about her approach to managing a support service, and meeting the needs of Muslims with mental health problems. Samira’s approach is Islamically-sensitive and person-centred and is one that most practitioners might be able to consider incorporating in their practice.

Over to you

Would you be able to make adjustments to the support you provide to meet the religious needs of the individuals and groups you work with to be Islamically-sensitive? What would support you to do this and would there be any obstacles to working in an Islamically-sensitive way?

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