• Zakat Foundation of America - Mental Health Awareness in Muslim Communities

Mental Health Awareness in Muslim Communities

October 14, 2016

“No, I am not lacking in my faith.”

This is one of the many things I used to tell my family and community everyday. My name is Amarah and I am an 18 year-old Muslim American with a mental disorder. I’m like every other Muslim American - I pray, fast, and balance school, work, and home life.

I was diagnosed in my last year of middle school when I was 13-years-old, and have been struggling ever since for about 5 to 6 years now. I wasn’t really vocal about it back then. I knew there was a stigma in our Muslim community. It wasn’t until I began therapy my freshman year of college, when a community member told me that if I just believe in God, that my life would be so much better, and that I wouldn’t be so “nervous” all the time.

But I do believe in God. I I make du’a every day of my life.

Recently, I attended a lecture for high school to early college age students and they were accepting topic suggestions for the following weeks. I asked one of the leaders to discuss mental health with the group, but they declined my idea and said that the group was too young and not mature enough to understand. They were so wrong. Earlier this year, there was a young Muslim boy in elementary school who took his own life.

Young Muslim Americans begin to deal with trauma the minute they develop a conscience. The shame in mental health was structured around our parents’ generation. Mental health was associated with bringing shame to your family and ruining your reputation. Ibn Sina, a Muslim scholar during the Islamic Golden Age who is also known as father of modern medicine, studied mental illness which led to the first mental hospital in modern day Baghdad, Iraq in 705 CE. Our brain is an organ that needs to be cared for the same way any other part of our body may be hurting. There is a lack of education about mental health in our communities. In order to reduce this stigma, we have to educate ourselves.