As Muslim clinicians, advocating for the basic human rights of the LGBTQ community is a step toward social justice for one of many vulnerable populations. The clinical consequences of neglecting to support LGBT youth and individuals is staggering, including risk of suicide, other mental illness, substance abuse, and ongoing trauma from discrimination. 

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Since the publication of The Family and Youth Institute (FYI)  Suicide Prevention and Intervention Resources in September of 2017, over 6000 people have accessed the Suicide Prevention and Intervention Resources on the website and almost 25,000 have accessed them through social media outreach. Mosques and community centers are starting to address suicide and mental health issues in programming and Friday sermons. As Sheikh Yaser Birjas mentioned in a Friday sermon this past September, “We live in one society, we are not immune. Cultural shame leads people to feel isolated. There is no shame in seeking help. It is obligatory if you need help or know someone who does that you should seek it [professional help].”

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Another call came in. I knew what to expect — another woman, distressed and frantic. Her marriage was falling apart, and she was eager to piece it back together, or figure out what else she could do to make it work. Ending the marriage was not on the table for her, but she was drastically unhappy, and so was her spouse. He was a good person, she said, but their marriage was gasping for air — what could she do to bring it back to life?

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There is an oft-repeated verse of the Qur’an that says, “Ask the people of knowledge if you don’t know.”  It encourages consultation of an expert in times of crisis. In Muslim America, it means that the Imam, both grounded in Islamic knowledge and in a position of public trust, is often the first person American Muslims think to call in times of crisis.  Far too often, it means that the late night callers – one reporting spousal abuse, a teenager with issues at school, and another seeking a listening ear – believe that the Imam holds an immediate solution to their problem. Far too often, the person some of these individuals truly need is a mental health professional.

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“Her children stare in fear, as her abuser screams and yells profane words at her, stripping away every bit of her self-respect and dignity. In shock, she attempts to understand what triggered his sudden rage, this time.”

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“A 27-year-old Iranian woman who arrived in the United States only a few months ago has died after a brutal beating that police in Michigan attribute to her new Iranian-American husband. The victim was living in one of the more remote parts of the United States. She was declared brain dead three days later. A hookup with a laptop camera allowed the family to see her on the last days.”

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As Muslim mental health practitioners, we are engaging in the jihad of speaking truth to power every day with our praxis. We make known the benefits of being a practicing Muslim through research, community wellness, and consciousness raising. We observe the religious responsibilities of Islam and live a spiritual life based on Islam. These reflections and actions are the greatest jihad of speaking truth to power.

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In theory, the line between mental illness and spiritual needs is clear; however, not many things are clear in a prison setting. As a Muslim chaplain in the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC), I am faced with inmates that have clear mental health needs. Fortunately, inmates with mental health issues are often identified by the mental health departments in all the facilities in CT prisons and jails

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Primary health care providers and patients alike are increasingly recognizing the positive role that psychotherapy can play in wellness. At the same time, it can sometimes be challenging to locate appropriate psychotherapeutic services.

Whether you’re facing a rough moment or know someone who is, finding the right mental health practitioner is one of the first steps towards enhanced well-being. In psychotherapy, you will learn healthy coping strategies, gain a better understanding of yourself, and address goals that you set in collaboration with your psychotherapist.

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As Muslim clinicians, we know firsthand the challenges and blessings of Ramadan and fasting. Fasting can be a struggle, even for the healthy individual. But how does fasting and Ramadan affect our patients? From timing medications such as stimulants, to dosing twice daily regimens to help with mood stabilization or depression – sometimes we assume our patients will figure out answers to these complicated questions on their own.

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