The need for mental health services within the Muslim community is more significant than ever.
With the rise of Islamophobia, the Muslim community suffers from the toxic trauma of discrimination, coupled with the common mental health issues that all societies face. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA): “Religious discrimination against Muslims is associated with depression, anxiety, subclinical paranoia, and alcohol use.” If this is the case, why are Muslims so hesitant to seek mental health services? The APA notes that “[M]uslims are often less likely to access needed mental health resources.”
Why Are Muslims Not Seeking Mental Health Resources?
There are two main reasons for Muslims being deterred from getting mental health services. The first is the social stigma associated with mental health issues. The second is a health care system that isn’t equipped for Muslims in terms of cultural and religious context.
The Unique Social Stigma of Mental Health Issues of Muslims in America
Stigma is defined as “the situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social acceptance.” Mental illness is often seen as a personal failure or weakness in the Muslim community that prevents you from accepting it.
What are some of the reasons for this stigma? Muslims may see mental health symptoms as a curse or punishment from God and think that getting psychiatric services is a spiritual weakness. Seeking help can be seen as a weakness in faith, the person’s character, or mind.
Interestingly, Islamic tradition encourages mental health wellness and makes spiritual accommodations for the mentally “incompetent.” Utilizing psychotherapy can help you attain spiritual serenity. Islamic psychotherapy, offered by organizations like Khalil Center, revitalizes the spiritual self by paving the way toward self-exploration via guided introspection.
Working Toward A Mental Health Care System That Understands Muslims
Muslim Americans seeking mental health services can be worried that non-Muslim mental health professionals will not understand or consider their faith and background. There may even be somewhat of a built-in negative bias toward Muslims in America in the health care field. An analysis of health care journals found that articles discussing Muslims often have concerning undertones that may lead their professional audiences to believe Islam does not generally promote healthy living.
All of this can lead Muslims to avoid therapy.
This is why Khalil Center’s work is so groundbreaking. Khalil Center uses faith-based approaches rooted in Islamic theological concepts while integrating the science of psychology to address psychological, spiritual, and communal health.
As our community expands, we must recognize and support initiatives like Khalil Center, even if we don’t utilize the services personally. Resources like this will help us help our community survive the traumas of discrimination, Islamophobia, and more. It will help us thrive.