Islam & Mental Health
What is Mental Health?
- Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health does not only affect the way we think, feel, and act but also how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
- Mental health is not limited to emotional problems. For instance, if a couple is having difficulty getting along; if parents and kids are having trouble seeing eye to eye; or if a person is underperforming at school or work; then a counselor or therapist may be able to help guide the person to resolving their problems.
- Whether mental health is caused by biological factors, life experiences, or family history, it is important to know that help is available.
What Are Some Common Mental Health Issues?
- Stress- Defined as the body’s response to demand. Stress can cause physical, emotional and behavioral disorders which can affect your health and peace-of-mind, as well as personal and professional relationships. Too much stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, backaches, or headaches, and can contribute to potentially life-threatening diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder- An excessive feeling of fear or worry about things that are independent of a stress-causing event. General symptoms include problems such as sleeping, feeling of panic, cold or sweaty hands, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and not being able to stay calm.
- Panic Attacks- Sudden onset of intense fear and discomfort that reaches its peak within minutes and includes 4 of the following symptoms: increased heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, feeling of choking, chest pain, dizziness, fear of losing control, fear of dying, feeling of unreality, and numbness or tingling sensations.
- Major Depressive Disorder - A feeling of constant hopelessness and despair. Consists of a combination of symptoms that affect the individual's daily ability to work, sleep, eat and enjoy things in life. May occur only once, but more commonly appears several times throughout the individual's lifetime.
- Marital Issues- Common disputes between spouses, family members involving physical abuse and/or psychological abuse.
What Is The Connection Between Mental Health and Islam?
- Spiritual Resilience - Islam offers a spiritual sanctuary for Muslims to live a peaceful life by using their inner strengths and having a strong relationship with the ultimate power, Allah, being optimistic, purifying their feelings, and not waiting for outside events to improve. Islam acknowledges the importance of spiritual status as an interior power that can be exercised to have a calm mind, healthy consciousness, and positive thoughts.
- Role of Patience - Islam attaches great importance to patience and it is the focus of about 200 verses of the Quran and referred to indirectly in many others. Patience is a virtue that enables Muslims to proceed towards worthy goals, undeflected by adverse circumstances or repeated provocations.
- Evil Eye (Ayn/ Nazar)- Belief in the evil eye is found in the Quran based on the following verse: “And from the evil of the envied when he envies," [Al-Falaq (The Daybreak),113:5]. The concept of an evil eye is the belief that an individual can look at people, animals, or objects and cause harm due to jealousy.
- Spiritual Possession- The belief that Jinn has the power to possess an individual causing harm to the person and those around them.
What Are Some Misconceptions About Mental Health In The Muslim Community?
- Mental health as a taboo subject in the Muslim community leads to embarrassment and fear for the members of the community who do have Mental illness. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed so that those suffering can get the help needed.
- Another misconception in the Muslim community is that mental health is associated with being “non-religious” or “not religious enough.” Many factors may contribute to the development of mental health issues, so it is not fair to oversimplify multifactorial medical conditions this way because it dismisses the potential role of mental health professionals in helping.
- Many Muslims believe that today's mental health issues are tests from God and therefore are not addressed.
- A Non-Muslim mental health professional is going to impose their beliefs on you and is going to undermine your Islamic beliefs. The professional and ethical obligations of all mental health professionals are to respect your religious values and beliefs. If Islam and/or your spirituality is an important factor in your life, you should have an open discussion with your therapist or counselor.
- As with any profession, you may like some counselors better than others. If you have or had a bad experience with a counselor and therapist, there are literally thousands of other counselors you can turn to and may offer a better experience.
If someone has faith in Allah they shouldn't be depressed or have mental illnesses, should they?
As a Muslim, you get affected by life’s troubles and disturbing thoughts like everyone else, but you can deal with them much better because you have a clear roadmap of where you came from, where you are going and why, so you have a head start having this fundamental knowledge from its source. (Islam Online Archive, n.d.)
Someone who feels completely lost and alone in the face of a crisis would probably feel helpless and depressed. But someone who feels supported by a compassionate God who genuinely cares, who listens to desperate pleas, and who grants generous help, has a better chance of getting back on track much faster because there is a strong helping hand to reach for while dealing with life’s troubles. (Islam Online Archive, n.d.)
“And for those who fear Allah, He always prepares a way out, and He provides for him from sources he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.”(Quran, 65: 2-3)
Is consulting an imam or religious scholar enough to address someone's mental illnesses or personal challenges?
The majority of Imams are not trained in mental health (or mental health first aid). Although many Muslims seek advice or services from Imams, there may be a gap in understanding between an Imam and mental health professional
What is Islam's role in addressing mental illnesses and mental health challenges people face?
Islam does not require us to be superhuman. If one experiences negative feelings, he is encouraged to resist them with positive thoughts and actions if possible or to seek professional help if the case is clinical. .(Islam Online Archive, n.d.)
People feel depressed or sad when this harmonious equilibrium is disturbed, in which case Islam steps in, not to condemn the feeling, but to offer a solution for regaining psychological and mental balance. .(Islam Online Archive, n.d.)
Islam Online Archive. (n.d.). Islam and Depression.Retrieved from https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=5267