Let’s talk about Mental Health

April 2, 2017
I’m a Muslim and I suffer from anxiety and depression. I used to feel so alone and isolated from my brothers and sisters. I’d see statistics that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point and that the odds are even higher when we look at the student population. However, I thought these statistics didn’t apply to Muslims, the statistics were surely just referring to non-Muslims. I thought Muslims don’t go through this kind of stuff because no one, in my experience, ever talks about it. It’s like this big taboo topic, don’t bring it up. It seemed like an unspoken rule. I thought mental health was a topic not to be discussed, something to be ashamed of. And because the topic of mental health is never brought up, whether it be with family, friends or within the Muslim community, I started to think negatively about my situation. I thought that surely, it meant I wasn’t a good Muslim, that this is something I must keep quiet and pretend doesn’t exist. I thought Allah must be angry with me, I’d done something to displease Allah and He was punishing me. I thought this was Shaytaan’s doing or that experiencing a mental health problem was a sign that my imaan must be weak. So along with struggling with anxiety and depression, I also struggled with accepting that this is something I am allowed to face as a Muslim. I can see that this is an unhealthy way of thinking and that by not acknowledging that mental health is real and valid, we make it harder for those who suffer with it. Because it does exist in the Muslim community and the statistics do include us. I know that I am not alone in my way of thinking and my fear to talk about it. However, bringing to light the stigma was not the only point in my post, what I really wanted to talk about is something that gives me overwhelming comfort: Surah Ad-Duha. This Surah was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) at a time when he had not received any revelation for six months, not even in the form of a dream. The Prophet (saw) was in a disturbed state of mind and entered a state of great depression. He thought he had done something to make Allah upset. He thought Allah wanted no more with him anymore. This is when Surah Ad-Duha was revealed for cases of deep sadness to give hope, positivity, and the assurance that Allah is with you no matter what. I hope that if you are struggling, you too can find peace, hope, and some comfort from this. The Tafseer is beautiful and I wanted to share the first aayahs because I was so moved by its words. These were words that I needed to hear. 1. Wad duhaa— By the morning brightness Straight away, the aayah reminds us that not everything is grey, all we have to do is wake up and look up at the sunshine. 2. Wal laili itha sajaa— And [by] the night when it covers with darkness, This aayah talks about darkness to remind us that the night is supposed to give us comfort and rest. When we are going through a trial, we tend to fall into a bad sleeping pattern by staying up at night, therefore worsening our state of mind. This aayah reminds us to use the night as a comfort to ease our distress. 3. Ma wad da’aka rabbuka wa ma qalaa— Your Lord has not taken leave of you, [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you]. This is a very powerful verse from Allah telling us that He doesn’t hate us and that He hasn’t forgotten us. These words remind us that He is always by our side.  4. Walal-aakhiratu khairul laka minal-oola— And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life]. This aayah reminds us that life in this world is temporary and that Aakhira is a better, more permanent place for us than this world could ever be. This makes us look forward to attaining a place in Jannah and helps us view problems in our lives as temporary tests of our faith from Allah. What is coming is going to be far better for you than what situation you are in now. 5. Wa la sawfa y’uteeka rabbuka fatarda— And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied. A promise from Allah that very soon he will give us a massive reward (Jannah) and we will be happy- Subhanallah. These are such words of comfort when you’re feeling low and fed up. (NB: This isn’t the full Surah, there are six more aayahs.) How many of us are fighting a battle that no one can see? Too afraid of judgement if we open up to our brothers and sisters. So, as I draw this post to an end I would like to ask something of you. If you understand that mental health is something real, please in some way, try to make it known that you acknowledge mental health is valid. Your closest brothers and sisters could be part of the 1 in 4 but don’t believe they have anyone they can turn to for support, so they fight a silent battle instead. I’m not asking you all to do something really bold like update your Facebook statuses announcing that you recognise mental health is important, just maybe next time it’s brought up, don’t be afraid to talk about it. In that way we can work to reduce the stigma. For those of you that are suffering, know that you are in my prayers and know that if I knew what you were going through, I would want to listen. And please ask the difficult questions. If you suspect one of your brothers or sisters isn’t okay, don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes people just need an opportunity to open up. – By Anonymous