Muslim community leaders tackle mental health at first-of-its-kind conference

 Muslim community leaders tackle mental health at first-of-its-kind conference


The often stigmatized topic of mental health brought together Muslims from across Houston for a first-class event on Saturday.

Some 300 community leaders, including counselors, imams, and mental health and refugee service providers, met for the Muslim Mental Health Conference for Community Leaders in Sugar Land to address addiction, mental health in young and the impact on COVID-19.

The Ibn Sina Foundation, a nonprofit that provides health care services to Houston low-income families, organized the conference. The chairman of the foundation, philanthropist Nasruddin Rupani, announced that it will expand its services to build a building that will include mental health support.

“Our help clinic has a whole floor of mental health services,” Rupani said, “We hope we can provide a service that is completely free to people who can’t afford it.”

Access to mental health care was central to the conference, especially on how asking for help can be prohibitive and prevent people from getting the support they need.

“Some Muslims mental illness may also think that mental illness is kind of a curse or punishment,” said Dr. Asim Shah, a conference speaker and psychiatrist with Baylor College of Medicine. He said some Muslims understand to seek treatment as a form of weakness.

Shah explained that this resistance even when the mental health a major problem in every community, especially the Muslims.

An academic study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2021 found that Muslims in the United States are twice as likely to attempt suicide than other religious groups.

“Sometimes you need more than prayers,” said the professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Dr. Farha Abbasi, one of the speakers at the conference and an international advocates for mental health Muslims.

Abbasi said it is important that religious leaders should validate – not critically – about mental health struggles.

“Mental health is not about judgment. It’s not about sin, or hell or heaven. It’s about being there for your neighbor,” Abbasi said.

Abbasi said the Quran – the holy book of Islam – promotes mental and physical health and that the pursuit of mental health care is supported by Muslim teachings, not opposed to it.

He stresses for a model of cooperation to care for the professional care in mental health can be with imams and other spiritual leaders to rely on one another that will guide a patient even in a spiritual or mental health crisis.

Organizers said about 30 imams and other mosque leaders attended the conference.

AMIRA Abakar attended the conference on Saturday and is studying to get her Ph.D. that he may run himself into mental health practice to support Muslim women.

“If you make women stronger, all children will grow up in a stronger society as well,” Abakar said.

In the meantime his experience in dealing with Muslim women, she was shocked when they face at home.

“You look at them happy, but when you sit down with her and try to get her open, she starts to cry. They have a lot of abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. -abuse, their partner speaks to them, such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ “

Abakar said opening up to women is a big challenge, especially since there are cultural barriers to consider. From Sudan, her experiences as a Muslim woman are different from women from Central and South Asia.

He said the key is to maintain complete confidentiality.

the conference also focused on mental health among refugees and immigrants, a topic Kadidja Diallo knows intimately as program director of Olive Branch Muslim Family Services.

Diallo said some of his clients have struggled to maintain their culture while adjusting to new U.S. rules.

“The lack of familiar a great winning culture,” he said, especially as the family tried to face the fact that they left the rest of their lives.

“Many stress and anxiety about it. And many times not diagnosed things because you gisilhig it under the carpet,” he said.

According to Pew Research, 58 percent of U.S. Muslims are immigrants and typically come from countries in South and Central Asia and North Africa, particularly Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan. Harris County has the second-highest number of Pakistani immigrants in the country.

About 25 Muslim-majority countries were represented by conference attendees, according to event organizers.

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