Texas: Muslim Community Leaders addressed Mental Health at a Conference

texas muslim community leaders addressed mental health at a conference
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Publié le 18 mai 2022, par Samir | 16 h 48 min
Temps de lecture : 8 minutes

Muslim community leaders addressed mental health at a conference in Sugarland, Texas, Houston Chronicle reported on May 14, 2022. This event turned out to be a one-of-its-kind conference as the often-tabooed topic of mental health received due highlights.

Mental Health Awareness Week happened from 9 to 15 May 2022, with the official theme being ‘loneliness.’ People were encouraged to develop valuable connections with their friends, family, colleagues, and communities throughout the week.

Muslim community leaders addressed mental health at a conference

Almost 300 community leaders, counselors, mental health service providers, and imams were among the conference attendees. They joined hands to attend the Muslim Mental Health Conference in Sugarland, Texas, to discuss mental health issues in youth and the outcomes of the global pandemic.

Mental Health is the most trending subject in today’s digital space, and rightly so; it did not gain enough attention in many communities for years. Due to its stigma, people live and suffer silently with this illness until it becomes a concern.

The Muslim Mental Health Conference emerged as a unique platform to unite community leaders in addressing community mental health issues. They could meet, engage, and understand the challenges, resources, and insights in tackling this condition at the conference. The conference aimed to challenge the status quo and raise awareness about mental health and well-being among the Muslim majority communities.

Conference Objectives

  • To identify challenges and propose solutions regarding mental health challenges in the Muslim community.
  • To educate and create awareness about identifying the mental issues in the community.
  • To bridge the gap between the clergy and the providers and provide an educational platform about mental health.
  • To address, discuss and create a faith-based holistic and stigma-free approach.
  • To develop community resilience through awareness and partnerships.
  • To make mental health resources readily available to community leaders.

Ibn Sina Foundation

A nonprofit organization, Ibn Sina Foundation, was the event organizer. This organization is responsible for providing health care facilities to less-privileged families in Houston. Nasruddin Rupani, Chairman of the Ibn Sina Foundation, addressed the attendees and informed them about expanding the foundation’s services, including constructing a facility to provide mental health support services.

« Our aid clinic will have a whole floor of mental health services, » Rupani said, « We hope that we provide a service completely free to people who can’t afford it. »

Mental health provision was the core idea of the conference, particularly how mental health treatment can be a stigma and becomes a barrier for people looking for support. It was an outstanding achievement as Ibn Sina sponsored the first Muslim mental health conference in America. This event brought community leaders and professionals to help with mental health management.

Dr. Asim Shah, one of the conference speakers and psychiatrist with Baylor College of Medicine, said, « Some Muslims with mental illness may also think that mental illness is a curse or punishment. » He believed that some Muslims think getting mental health support is a weakness.

Key Takeaways

  • According to an academic study published by JAMA Psychiatry in 2021, Muslims in the US are twice as likely as other religious groups to attempt suicide.
  • Seeking mental health care can be seen as a weakness by some Muslims (like in many cultures)
  • « Some Muslims with mental illness may also think that mental illness is a curse or punishment. » – Dr. Asim Shah.
  • Farha Abbasi, a University of Michigan psychiatry professor and one of the conference speakers, and an international advocate for Muslim mental health, advocates for a collaborative care model to combat that, so mental health care professionals partner w/ imams + other leaders.
  • « Mental health is not about being judgmental. It’s not about sin or hell or heaven. It’s about being there for your fellow human beings. »
  • 58% of Muslims in the U.S. are immigrants & come from many different countries, making it a diverse population, according to Pew Research Center.
  • Counselor Amira Abakar, from Sudan, said this could be another barrier because there are norms you may be unaware of, coming from a different cultural context.

Dr. Farha Abbasi explained that the Holy Quran prioritizes mental and physical health and Islamic teachings support mental healthcare services.

Amira Abakar, one of the conference attendees and a Ph.D. student, aims to establish a mental health facility to support Muslim women.

« If you make women stronger, all the kids will be raised in a society that will be stronger, too, » She said.

Her experience with the treatment of Muslim women domestically has been shocking; they have to deal with unfortunate circumstances.

“You see them happy, but when you sit with her and try to let her open up, she would start crying. They have a lot of abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse, their spouse, talking down to them, like ‘Who do you think you are?’”

According to Abakar, women face challenges in opening up mainly because they have been through cultural barriers. Her experience as a Sudani Muslim has been entirely different from that of Central and South Asian women. She noted that keeping things confidential is the key. 

The conference also tackled mental health among refugees and immigrants. Kadidja Diallo delivered the subject, who serves as Olive Branch Muslim Family Services program director.

She said that it’s challenging for her clients to maintain their culture while adjusting to the diverse norms in the U.S. 

“The lack of familiarity is a huge culture shock, especially while families are trying to deal with the fact that they left their whole lives behind,” she said.

“It’s a lot of stress and anxiety over that for sure. And often, things go undiagnosed because you’re just kind of sweeping it under the rug,” she said.

According to Pew Research, 58 percent of Muslims in the U.S. are immigrants. They mostly migrate from South and Central Asian and North African countries, especially Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan. Harris County has the second-highest number of Pakistani immigrants in the country.

The event organizers estimated that representatives from around 25 Muslim majority states participated in the conference, among other attendees.

Houston Mayor’s Office published an official tweet regarding the successful event:

“Mental health wellness is essential to successful communities. Thank you to @IbnSinaUSA for hosting today’s Muslim Mental Health Conference for Community Leaders.”

Houstonian businessman and diplomat Marty McVey shared his experience after the event and posted a tweet:

“Grateful to IBN Sina Foundation for hosting the first Muslim Mental Health Conference in America. This opportunity brings together community leaders & professionals to aid in managing mental health issues.”

Mental Health

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes mental health as “an emotional, psychological, and social well-being that affects how individuals think, feel, and act.” It is also a contributing factor in supporting how an individual tackles stress, engages with the community and makes decisions. Mental health remains a partner in every phase of life, from childhood to adulthood.

Significance of Mental Health

Mental Health is a state of wellness that lets people understand their full potential and can be a prominent contributor to society. If an individual is mentally unwell, he can get several issues that could be lethal for his health. Studies reveal that this subject has seen a great barrier due to the stigma that stops people from getting support. Due to the lack of mental health awareness, most patients experiencing mental health issues are left untreated.

Mental healthcare could not cater to mentally ill individuals who needed urgent support. It’s crucial to create awareness and build communities. The present scenario needs a paradigm shift and change in mental healthcare practices.

A study was published in the National Library of Medicine titled, “Understanding the stigma: a novel quantitative study comparing mental health attitudes and perceptions between young British Muslims and their non-Muslim peers.” Results revealed that “Muslims were less likely to identify mental illness symptoms than their non-Muslim peers correctly. Stigma and awareness remain major issues. A third of Muslims would consider stopping medication on the advice of a religious leader. Nearly half of Muslims were more likely to attend a dedicated ethnic/religious mental health service.”

Muslim Historical Participation in Psychological Theories and Treatment

“Many individuals, including Muslims, incorrectly believe that psychology and mental health are sciences rooted only in Western civilizations. Muslim scholars from other parts of the world have long contributed to psychology and mental health, dating back to the 9th century. Increasing awareness and appreciation of the historical contributions of Muslims to the field of mental health may help decrease stigma and resistance by some Muslim clients towards the utilization of psychological or psychiatric services.”

“In addition, researchers and practitioners can incorporate these understandings in treatment plans to provide culturally and religiously sensitive services. While covering other periods and contributions, many modern textbooks on the history of medicine overlook this critical period in the history of psychiatry and mental health development. This project explores the contributions of Muslim scholars from the 7th century to the 13th century, often referred to as the golden period of Islamic civilization.”

Utilizing Social Media Platforms in Mental Health Promotion

“Public health efforts to reduce stigma and educate communities about sensitive health issues rely on social media technology. Social media has overgrown to connect individuals globally and spread information and resources to users in the last couple of years. The benefits of utilizing social media for mental health promotion have been explored in the general American community but have yet to be researched within the American Muslim community.

This study examines how American Muslim organizations utilize social media for mental health promotion for the larger American Muslim community.” [Source: “Pathways to Wellness: Exploring Muslim mental health promotion in the digital age.“]

The Mental Health Awareness Week passed last week serves as a timely reminder that mental health is essential. Moreover, people who suffer from mental illnesses deserve compassion, understanding, and avenues to hope, healing, recovery, and fulfillment. Let’s come together during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond to bring awareness of the outcomes of poor mental health. Offer secure and free spaces to support each other. Help individuals learn technology and stay connected with their family and friends. Make a community of volunteers to support lonely individuals.

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