Last month, I wrote an article called six reasons why people don't go into counseling. It highlighted some points about why some people might be afraid to take the first step to get help for mental health issues they might be having. It was mainly for everyone to encourage them to get help. However, in this article I would like to concentrate on you, the parents and the stigma you walk around with about mental health.
Within the Muslim community, there are so many different cultures, too many to name. In each culture, there is some stigma about mental health and a certain taboo that revolves around it. Some parents will view mental health issues as a decrease in iman (faith) or lack of. Others view it as being touched by jinn and yet, there are some who see it as some sort of sorcery, e.g. black magic.
This view of mental health and mental illness is present in homes where children take in and absorb it all from a very young age. Children growing up with this type of mindset will grow up believing that mental health is something to hide and shy away from. Being raised with this mindset makes it difficult and nearly impossible for children to seek out help. They don't want to disappoint their parents, their culture, or disrupt the norm they grew up in.
This type of attitude sets kids and teens up for a destructive and helpless lifestyle. Parents need to realize that the way they grew up is not the same way that their children are growing up. Teens have different struggles today that parents might not be able to fully understand. Keeping the line of communication open and allowing your children to express any mental health struggles they might have will benefit the entire family.
Here are some do's and don'ts that should be practiced in every Muslim household:
- Don't stigmatize mental health
- Don't shame your teens for being depressed
- Don't tell your children to get over their anxiety
- Don't prevent them from getting help if they need it
- Don't scare them away from seeking help
- Don't judge them
- Give them amaan (safety) to speak to you frankly without repercussion
- Help them take the first step for counseling if they need it
- Validate their feelings
- Listen to what they're telling you
- Take threats to self harm seriously
- Always be alert and aware of any changes to your teen's behavior
- Ask them how you can help them
Sometimes teens just need someone to listen to them without judgement. Be that person so that they don't have to look too far for someone else. If you feel that their struggles are ones you can't help them with, encourage them to seek professional help. Let them know that it's okay to go into therapy and help them set up their first appointment. Be proud of them for speaking to you and showing their vulnerability.
Mental health is no game, so please take it seriously. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the 15-19 age group. In 2017, 1,400,000 people attempted suicide and 47,173 succeeded. Don't let your kids become a statistic.