19 May 2016
in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast,
but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way. That’s
the stigma. We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down other
than our brains. And that’s ignorance.”
Breel (Confessions of A Depressed Comic)
that we live in today is sluggishly making progress in the destigmatisation
towards mental health and suicide. However, in religious communities that are
predominantly of colour, suicide, as well as mental health, still tends to be a
taboo topic. Similar to the African American Christian community, mental health
disorders in Muslim communities are not often discussed and instead
stigmatized. When things like mental health disorders that affect people’s
daily lives remain un-discussed, nothing is accomplished. It is important that
we talk about such topics in order to understand and provide comfort for those
who need it.
that should be discussed a lot more is self-harm among Muslim youth. According
to Mental Health America, it is estimated that about two million people in the
U.S. injure themselves in some way, with an overwhelming part of that
population being young teenagers of all types of races and backgrounds. It must
be noted that Muslim youth are included in the preceding statistic. Although
people still discriminate, mental illnesses don’t.
It is extremely
important to note that just because one self-harms, it does not automatically
mean that person is suicidal. However, it does indicate that the person doing
it is need of a stable support system and knowledge that they are not suffering
alone. Unfortunately, self-harm is a popular, unhealthy method of dealing with
internal and external stress. It is usually done as a way to ignore emotional
pain by inflicting physical pain.
individuals turn to self-harm if they feel that they have no control over the
pain they endure. This type of outlet is far more popular than most think. It
is an outlet that even some of our sisters and brothers have hidden under their
sleeves. I first realized how easy it is for Muslims specifically to keep
self-harm a secret, right after I’d first hung out with a Muslimah who migrated
with her family from Syria a few years ago, who I am now happy to call a good
friend of mine. Contrary to the attention-seeking myth about those who cut,
those who self-harm usually try to keep their harming a secret from family,
friends, and other loved ones. My friend had no problem hiding it at school
since she dressed modestly in public. At home, it was a different story as she
covered less around family members. Despite seeing it, her family did not
really know how to deal with her self-harming.
believe that mental health issues and self-harm only happens within typical
white communities. Believe it or not, self-harm is prominent in communities of
predominantly of colour. However, most just do not find it appropriate or feel
comfortable enough to discuss it openly. But we must do so. We must show
concern and compassion and let people know that they have other options; far
more healthier mechanisms to choose from.
self-harm eventually do use their self-injuring as a method to intentionally
commit suicide, if truly unhappy. I believe we all know that in Islam, suicide
is strictly forbidden. Prophet Muhammad said, “He who commits suicide by
throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he
who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the
Hell-Fire.” (Bukhari 2:446 Narrated Abu Huraira) One interpretation of this
Hadith is that if we are suffering in our daily lives and decide to take our
own lives in attempt to stop the suffering, we will still continue to suffer,
even in the afterlife. But this time it will be eternal. This is why mental
health is such an important aspect to keep in check.
serious stress and other mental factors can be quite dangerous if they
eventually lead to suicidal thinking/tendencies. Together, let’s help prevent
people’s lives and thoughts escalating to such a state that they feel compelled
to end their lives.
amazed at how we mourn suicide, but constantly deny depression.”
I must ask:
Why should we not feel the need to brighten our environments, as well as the
environments of other people? If we see someone struggling, we should help
them. Life is so short and full of change, that in the very next moment,
something could happen and we could very well be in the same situation as the
struggling people we see. True, Allah (SWT) never gives us anything we cannot
handle, however, sometimes we should reach out to others whom we trust for help
in order to take control of our situations and overcome our obstacles.
those who can comfort us are simply blessings of Allah (SWT). We must offer
help towards those whom we may not normally speak to everyday. A problem that
exists especially in many religious communities is that we judge people harshly
and never think of them as more than a one-dimensional being. Humans are
complex beings. We all have stories to tell that shape us into who we are
today. You never know what someone’s story may be, what they’ve seen, heard,
done, or have been through. So why do so many of us judge based as if we
already know what someone’s story is?
So many of
the people we see every single day at school are dealing with a hellish
function of some sort. Some people’s situations are far more dangerous than
others, whether it be physically, psychologically or emotionally dangerous. So
even if you’re in a bad mood, try to be wary of how you speak to others,
because you might accidentally say the wrong words. These wrong words could be
a trigger or a reminder of negative thoughts or experiences they’ve had, and
cause them to do something that will negatively impact them in the long-term.
goes through good times and bad times, but not everyone has or uses the resources
to help them overcome. Let’s show that positive coping methods with stress,
anxiety, depression, etc. exist. Let’s encourage reading Qur’an for comfort to
the rest of our generation and the ones that will come after us. Rather than
creating conflict and negative tension between us, we should assist others
through their bumps in life and ensure they do not feel like their best and
only option is to commit suicide.
Dwaik, senior at Harrison High School, when asked about how she supported her
friend who often struggles with their mental health, said, “I try to do what
they tell me they need. I don’t push anything on them and make sure they’re
getting the support they need through listening.” This is an example of a very
supportive friend and how we should act in situations when our friends or even
strangers are in times of need. Do what is right and protect Allah’s (SWT)
creations by being a decent human being. Brothers, ask your fellow brothers if
they are okay, if they need anything, if there is anything you can do for them.
Sisters, please do the same for your fellow sisters. We cannot continue to
ignore people’s struggles just because they don’t happen to us. We must care,
simply because we are one.
Harrison High School students Deena Dwaik and Hala Yazdani agree that there is
great room for improvement in our communities when responding to mental health
issues and situations. Hala Yazdani believes that the Muslim community can
indeed strive to help reduce the amount of self-harming and suicides in the
community, “I think awareness is key to promoting help for those who need it.
People in such conditions should know they are not alone and there are other
willing to lend a hand.”
quite honest, we could be better at it. Being a Muslim should mean that we have
constant support for each other not only when someone has a physical illness.
It is very common for people in our community to assume that just because
someone is depressed, there’s no more hope for them. Sure, they pray for them
and tell them to pray for themselves, but there’s a sense of respect, for the
ill person, that’s lost. If we were truly following the Prophet Muhammad’s
(PBUH) message, we would always try to help those in need and care more for the
research of mental illnesses such as depression.” (Dwaik)
absolutely right. Together, let’s follow the Prophet (PBUH)’s message by
encouraging solidarity among Muslim communities to come together to work for
suicide and self-harm prevention.
Sisters. Please do not hurt yourselves. Please do not hurt any creation of
Allah (SWT). Realize the meaning behind “Assalam u Alaikum” when you say
it. Yes, peace be upon you. Let us not only wish that peace be upon others, but
let us actually work to help make that happen.