Devastated and broken while suffering for years in silence, a 20 year old girl spent her short life misunderstood and ridiculed not only by her peers, but sadly by her own family members obliterating her self-esteem. She pleaded with her parents for professional help, but her grievances were never taken seriously. Overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and alienation, the darkness of depression took over. Her unbearable loneliness left her feeling as if she didn’t have a choice but to try to end her pain the only way she knew how, by taking her own life. Alhamdulilllah, it was a failed attempt, which jolted her parents to wake up from their delusion and finally act.
When the family came in to see me they had no idea that the solution could be so simple. Alhamdulillah we were able to turn her life around in just a few short sessions. She learned to understand her depression, ways to cope with stress and restore the relationship with her parents.
“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” (Al-Bukhari)
Many people are suffering in silence with depression like the girl in the story, but they are not seeking help because of the fear and the stigma associated with mental health. They are either apprehensive about being labeled or they are ashamed to admit that they have a problem. It is about time we start prioritizing mental health and giving the same kind of medical attention as we do with physical illness. If your child broke his leg would you ignore it and hope it will just get better on its own or will you rush him to the emergency room to align the bone and put a cast on it? What would happen if the broken bone was ignored and not treated? It would obviously become a bigger problem leading to a lifetime of difficulty when it could have been so easily treated. Parents who wouldn’t treat a broken bone would be seen as negligent and unfit parents. They would even be categorized as abusive. Then why do we ignore the emotional wounds of our loved ones? Why do we assume that they will get over it? Bones will not heal sporadically without an orthopedist; a cavity will not go away on its own without a dentist and mental illnesses will not be healed without seeking psychological help from a professional. There are some people who may have limited finances, but in the same way we come up with the funds needed for surgery we need to come up with the funds to treat our family with mental health issues.
- Fear of the unknown
- Stigma associated with mental health
- Apprehensive about being labeled
- Ashamed to admit their problem
- Financial limitation
How Mental Health is Generally Dealt With
Mental health is often completely disregarded and trivialized in our communities. Since the symptoms of the disorders may not be as visible as physical diseases, it can be easily dismissed as being made up or unimportant. Due to a lack of education in mental health or experience, many parents prefer to sweep the problems under the rug denying that it is of any significance. Unfortunately, sticking your head in the sand will not make the problems disappear. Pretending that mental illness does not exist only exacerbates the problem. Untreated mental health issues can proliferate and completely take over the life of a loved one. Sometimes this can manifest in extreme depression, anxiety or hallucinations, which can be scary for family members, who then may resort to yelling, threatening and shaming their loved ones into silence. At their most vulnerable and frightening time when they are desperately in need of support, understanding and professional help, they are often ostracized and humiliated.
Summary: How Mental Illness is Generally Dealt With:
- Pretend it doesn’t exist
Benefits of Early Detection
And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of knowledge if you do not know. (Surat Al-Anbiya, 21:7)
In seeking medical attention for our family, we spare no expense to get the most renowned cardiologist or neurologist in the country for advice and treatment. When it comes to psychological advice, though, anyone will do. There is a total disregard for education, experience and competence. It is important to find a professionally trained counselor who is qualified to provide the specific type of treatment that is needed.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen extremes in people seeking treatment. There have been those who come for therapy in their fifties confiding in someone for the very first time in their life that they were abused at the age of four. These individuals delay their healing process and live with pessimism, rancor and resentment throughout their lives. Then there are those who quickly recognize there is a problem and they seek help to prevent it from escalating. These individuals learn to navigate through tumultuous waters of life with grace and confidence, knowing that they took the necessary steps to seek help. Amongst the elite are those exceptional individuals who come before they even detect a problem for premarital therapy, pre-parenting tips and preparation for loss of a loved one. They equip themselves like professional campers in avoiding dangers of conflict in marriage, putting out the fire of anger in parenting, preparing for the inevitable and making the most of their adventurous journey of life.
As with all illnesses, early detection and treatment of many mental disorders could be managed and cured. It could be the difference between having a fulfilling, peaceful life or living miserably and destroying the happiness of others. When someone learns to overcome their issues, they are more capable of having meaningful relationships. Early detection could mean more empathy for the one suffering and it could increase their self-esteem by having an in-depth understanding of their disorder. Sometimes it could be life and death.
Let’s not wait until it’s too late to seek treatment for ourselves and our loved ones.
Summary: Benefits of Early Detection:
- Manage the illness
- Cure the illness
- Peaceful life
- Better relationships
- More empathy
- Increase self-esteem
- Better understanding of the illness
- Prevent suicide
What Needs To Be Done?
EDUCATION. EDUCATION. EDUCATION.
Did I mention education? The more we inform our communities about the importance of treating mental health, the more we can prevent tragedies and help people live a fulfilling life regardless of their mental and emotional challenges. There is a need for Friday sermons across the country discussing our responsibility as practicing Muslims to treat ourselves and our families for mental illness. In order to create a safe environment to discuss mental illness, we have to be less judgmental and more supportive of one other as a community. We need to talk more openly about it without feeling ashamed. Instead of humiliating and ostracizing those with mental illness, we need to have prophetic patience, a heart full of compassion and the willingness to provide reliable treatment. If we adopt all these new strategies, then maybe we can change the current statistics. Sadly, 56% of adults in the 4.5 million people who suffer from mental disorders do not get treated. Let’s educate ourselves and our communities to shatter the stigma of mental health once and for all.
Review: What Needs To Be Done?
- Khutbas about mental illness
- Less judgmental
- More supportive
- Talk openly
- Prophetic patience