Mental illness is one of those topics that used to be taboo but is starting to be discussed more openly. People are trying to learn more, raise awareness, and get the help and support they need for themselves and their family members. As we know, mental illness does not discriminate; it affects about 1 in 5 adults in a given year, and Muslims are not immune. However, there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation about mental illness and health in our community. Here are 5 things the Muslim community needs to know about mental illness:
1. Mental Illness Does Not Automatically Make Someone Violent or Dangerous
I had to put this one at the top of the list because people often associate mental illness with violence. This is not fair to people with mental illnesses, because the vast majority are not violent. We should not demonize mentally ill individuals by associating them with violence, (although the people who make money off of news channels want us to do just that when they sensationalize and dramatize incidents related to mental illness).
2. Having a Mental Illness Is Not Haram
Unfortunately, people with mental illness are often treated as if they are sinful and meant to be shamed and hidden from the community. In reality, mental illness is like any physical illness in that nobody wants it, deserves it, or chooses to have it. So why do we often treat mentally ill community members like they are doing some horrible haram (forbidden) act? Why are topics related to mental health such as self-harm, addiction, and suicide still avoided like the plague, even though avoiding them is clearly not helping anyone? It’s time to start asking these questions.
3. Receiving Support Can Help a Person Who Has Mental Illness
This one may seem like common sense, but many people still need to hear it. Having a mental illness does not mean a person should be isolated and avoided. They are not “crazy” or contagious. In fact, their mental health may improve if they receive support from family, friends, and the community at large. Here are some ways that you can help support your loved ones who may have a mental illness.
4. Mental Illness Is Not a Result of Weak Character or Faith
Contrary to what many people in our community believe, mental illness is not caused by having weak iman (faith) or being a weak person. Although having a healthy spiritual connection is great for one’s mental health and can definitely help improve it, it’s not the only factor in maintaining mental health and (except by Allah’s will) cannot prevent a person from becoming mentally ill. It’s important to take care of one’s mental health through both religious and other means, just as we do with our physical health. Visiting a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health counselor is just as important in treating mental illness as praying is.
5. Going To a Mental Health Practitioner Is Not Something To Be Ashamed Of
If you are struggling with your mental health or suspect that you may have a mental illness, please know that there is no shame in going to a mental health practitioner for therapy and/or medication. In fact, it is a responsible decision and a sign of strength. Your mental health is worth too much to allow social norms and taboos to control your decisions. Our religion also requires us to take care of ourselves along with trusting in God.
“A man said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?’ The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Tie her and trust in Allah.’” [Narrated in Sunan al-Tirmidhi]
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