Muslims told to seek help for mental health issues

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Muslims suffering from mental health problems have been urged to seek medical and professional help, and not rely on spiritual healing alone.

At the European Islamic Centre in Manchester, United Kingdom, on Saturday, practitioners, psychiatrists, imams, and counsellors gathered to discuss the anatomy of Islamic psychology.

The experts agreed that Islamic psychology embraces the use of conventional methods to deal with mental health issues, contrary to the popular belief that spiritual healing alone is enough.

Abdullah Hasan, imam, and head of Alif Institute said, spiritual method alone can sometimes be dangerous for people suffering from depression. “It is not enough to tell a patient to increase his or her faith to treat psychosis. A combination of balanced Islamic approach will be much more effective,” he said.

Hasan who is the founder of the Institute, and one of the organisers of the event said, Islamic psychology has always incorporated the use of restorative and therapeutic methods with spiritual healing when solving health issues.

“Some people who suffer from these problems do pray regularly and observe their religious rites, but they still suffer from depression. The advice we are giving to them is to continue with their religious method of treatments and also seek professional help,” he said.

He said there is nothing wrong with using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in treating Muslim patients but should be used in combination with Islamic practices. “This is in line with the Alif model and, it would yield better outcomes,” he said.

He further stated that it is imperative to train religious leaders to become Islamic counsellors in the field of Islamic psychology. “People need more than spiritual advice, and that is why we need to focus on training imams as professional therapists.

“When imams are trained the message permeates easily to the community, and it will make a lot of difference in changing attitudes towards mental health issues,” he said.

Essa Saad, operations head at the Centre for Islam and Medicine, said: “We need to have a national health service that can deal with controversial health issues such as mental illness and end of life treatment within our community.”

Saad added that there have always been conflicts between Islam and modern science when it comes to making difficult decisions that relate to our health.

“That’s why the CIM is working on religious health-related literacy in partnership with the National Health Service to have guidance on these issues for our community,” he said.

Tayba Azim, a masters degree student at the University of Leeds, and a participant said: “More of this kind of discussion is needed regularly, so we can engage our community and find answers to some of these difficult issues facing us.”