With the COVID-19 pandemic catching the world by surprise, physicians and other healthcare providers have had to find ways to continue providing patients with treatment, while also keeping patients safe from possible infection. This spans physical and mental health treatment providers and facilities. Furthermore, studies have shown American Muslims often do not seek mental health services due to stigma and discomfort with sharing their stories to “strangers”. Telehealth has become ever more important to help American Muslims and the general population access services.
Let’s face it, being a Muslim mental health professional isn’t always easy. We often times deal with stigma from all around – from within the community, from society and from in the masjid. We may share a common desire to provide care, healing and hope to the mentally ill members of our very own Muslim communities. Some of us are often driven by rescue fantasies — but when do such subconscious drives blur boundaries? While we embark on this professional path with optimism, bright eyes and a sense of idealism, as we start to see patients of similar backgrounds, we may experience unexpected feelings and challenges. This can raise our anxiety about caring for Muslim clients and patients, especially for early career psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists. And so it is ironic that the very reason we ventured into this field can become an area of anxiety and consternation. And while Muslim clients oftentimes prefer practitioners of similar backgrounds, we know Muslims are not a monolith and represent a wide range of ethnicities, races and degrees of acculturation. How do we deal with situations when we are not the perfect fit as our clients desire?
The Syrian crisis has entered its seventh year. The country that once birthed the cradle of civilization is destroyed to a great extent and will likely never be the same. 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid – 5.8 million of which are children. Meanwhile, more than half a million Syrians have been killed, and millions (5 million, as reported by UNHCR this week) more have been displaced around the world since the beginning of one of the most devastating and protracted conflicts of our time.
Political analysts, bloggers, comedians, and researchers have kept the recent presidential election in the limelight through endless polls, studies and news articles. While the outcome of this election along with the antiquated electoral college is called into question, we cannot dismiss the unique significance of this political era regardless of one’s party affiliation. Trump’s victory has left most of us head-scratching – or, perhaps, hair-pulling. Some of us have been compelled to seek mental health services and even need medication to cope with the heightened anxiety, uncertainty, and hostile climate. This has been especially true for those who fall into the branded groups cast out by the Trump Administration, with Muslims near the top of the list of undesirables. In a seeming war between good and evil, our world appears upside down.