OPINION: Mental illness does exist in Islam

Feb 6, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion

Islam is a strict and strong religion. Followers have strong beliefs on many topics, but when it comes to mental health, it’s not considered real.

I grew up in a strict, religious family and I have always dealt with anxiety and depression. My family never believed in mental illness and that I have anxiety and depression.

They always have said don’t act like white people, that they are the reason why I am like this and to stop hanging out with them.

I try to avoid what my parents always say about these things. I try not to tell them what goes into my life because I know they will tell me to stop hanging out with these white people and be alone.

Mental illness is a big deal in every religion and to a lot of people in life. Mental illness is something that can’t be ignored. It is something that has to be taken seriously.

Frankie Samah, then a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol, wrote in a 2018 article in The British Psychological Society that Islam values the importance of good mental health and emotional well-being.

Haroon Imtiaz, director of communications of the Islamic Society of North America, says the Qur’an mentioned numerous times that mental health is crucial.

The Qur’an states in 70:19 that, “Truly, man was created anxious,” Imtiaz wrote.

“And this is a verse clearly alluding to the reality of anxiety, we also find in Surah Duha, the Prophet (PBUH) experienced intense mental doubt and fear, and Allah (SWT) comforted him,” he said.

Muslim parents believe that Allah can solve all of our problems, but not when it comes to mental illness. They think it is a sin and an act we are playing.

It took me years to explain to my family that mental illness is a real thing, it is not a white people thing, it is a real-life situation.

My mom was there for my first anxiety attack last December, she yelled at me for acting. I explained to her it was real.

Islamic families have always thought Muslims who were suffering were playacting, that they were behaving like the people in the movies who act stupid and crazy.

“Some Muslim parents may not take mental illnesses seriously for certain reasons,” Imtiaz wrote. “Some may believe that faith and prayer can easily deal with these issues. Some may also characterize mental issues as just tests and whispers of the Shaytaan (devil), as opposed to illnesses.”

Some parents have never been exposed to those with mental health conditions, thus making them unwilling to believe, Imtiaz said.

Anxiety and depression are rare and always something that needs to be taken seriously in any child or any person. The World Health Organization said about four per cent of the world’s population suffers from an anxiety disorder, or about 301 million people in a 2019 report. Other research suggests about 60 per cent of them also suffer from depression.

“Parents should take the mental health of their children very seriously. Poor mental health is linked to bad hygiene, poor performance at school and work, and other issues,” Imtiaz said.

Islamic parents need to understand that this isn’t a game, nor is it an act. In life, we all need help and support.