New report sheds light on the barriers and gaps in mental health services support provision for UK Muslim communities.

By Mr Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer), Published

A new report from The Lantern Initiative, Civil Society Consulting (CSC) and Muslim academics makes recommendations for mental health service provision for UK Muslim communities, including in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aaliyah Shaikh is co-author of the report* and also a Doctoral Student in Health Psychology at the School of Health and Psychological Sciences, City, University of London.

The report summarises the findings of a national survey, launched in June 2021, which received 960 responses from across the country and set out to understand the experiences and attitudes of Muslim communities toward mental health support.  

It is intended to inform community mental health support provision and calls attention to a number of key recommendations for community organisations, mosques, counselling services and clinical commissioning groups.

The national survey asked questions across seven areas of enquiry, and did not have to be completed in full, in order to promote better inclusion of respondents:

  • Cultural attitudes to mental health
  • The impact of COVID-19
  • Counselling: trends and experiences
  • Barriers to accessing support
  • Social and cultural barriers
  • Individual barriers
  • Mainstream counselling (Barriers and Enablers)
  • Faith-based counselling (Barriers and Enablers)
  • Mental health support from mosques & Islamic centres (Barriers and Enablers)

Key findings include:

  • 99% of survey respondents felt that their mental wellbeing was as important as physical wellbeing (of 888 responses)
  • 84% would like to have a better awareness or understanding of mental health (of 873 responses)
  • 35% said that one of the biggest barriers to accessing mental health support was the fear of being judged (of 634 responses)
  • 84% said that Islam is a big part of their identity and they would like it to inform the counselling they receive (of 332 responses)
  • 44% felt that faith-related issues weren’t dealt with through mainstream counselling (of 332 responses)
  • 55% said that they had not been supported by a family member with their mental health (of 648 responses)
  • 38% of survey respondents said that a major barrier for them in accessing mental health support was not knowing where to go (of 634 responses)

Demographics

Of those that answered (648 responses), 81% of respondents to the survey were women and 19% were men, which the authors suggest shows that further representation within the Muslim male population is required, and is consistent with mainstream population groups where males generally engage less with mental health concerns.

Of those that answered (650 responses), 71% identified as South Asian, 9% identified as White; 5% Mixed; 2.5% identified as Black and a small number identified as Arab.

Also, of those that answered (650 responses), 99.5% said they were Muslim.

Recommendations

The report authors found that each area of inquiry presented with its own strengths and weaknesses, indicating the need for collaborative approaches to mental health support and the reimagining of safe spaces available for this. They outlined multiple recommendations under each of six sources of support:

  • For the general community working and volunteering in Muslim mental health, including signpost to holistic approaches of support through a mixture of faith-based and clinical support - these should be appropriately informed and relevant.
  • Community organisations, including centring indigenous and Islamic ways of knowing, and integrating these with relevant psychological counselling skills; being mindful of engaging with and maintaining a decolonising perspective.
  • Mosques and Islamic centres, including Faith-based centres need to work on making their spaces feel safe, non-judgmental and impartial.
  • Faith-based counselling services, including the recommendation to be more holistic, integrating spiritual and faith-sensitive approaches with appropriate and relevant evidence-based, clinical techniques.
  • Mainstream Counselling services, including the recommendation to reach those who do not have the practical means or know-how to access mental health education, by doing targeted outreach work in a culturally appropriate and faith sensitive manner.
  • Clinical commissioning groups, including the recommendation to commission research internally to expertise already held within communities (this research needs to start addressing more complex mental health needs of the Muslim community).

Reflecting on the report, co-author Aaliyah Shaikh, said:

I  am honoured to have been part of the ‘Muslim Mental Health Matters’ report as a collaborative effort between Muslim academics and grassroots community organisations. We are pleased it has now been published and we can share our findings and insights for people to learn from. It has been so very important for the team to help raise awareness of the issues the report discusses, particularly the difficulty Muslims face in having their Mental health needs met and the need for more community centred and holistic healing and therapeutic approaches.

The report highlights what is working and what is not in terms of the current provision for mental health support, and what could be done to improve it, in the recommendations section. Furthermore, it brings to the fore, the need for trauma informed approaches to be at the heart of service provision for Muslim mental health with acknowledgement of the urgent critical need to decolonise mainstream healthcare systems from education through to delivery.

The Lantern Initiative is a not-for-profit community group run by a small team of volunteers based in Peterborough.  In March 2021, it gained community interest company (CIC) status.

*Aaliyah Shaikh’s co-authorship of the Muslim Mental Health Matters report did not form part of her doctoral study at City, and constitutes independent work.

Find out more

Read the report, Muslim Mental Health Matters, on the Lantern Initiative website.

Helplines

Helplines from which to seek support in the UK:

Muslim Youth Helpline

Faith and culturally sensitive support by phone, live chat, Whatsapp or email

We offer non-judgemental, confidential support 7 days a week, 365 days a year including bank holidays and Eid.

Call our helpline 7 days a week (4pm-10pm)

Tel: 0808 808 2008

Web chat: https://myh.org.uk/how-we-can-help/chat-with-us/

Email: help@myh.org.uk

Website: https://myh.org.uk/


Muslim Women’s Network

National specialist, faith and culturally sensitive helpline and counselling service

Get in touch with us

Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm

Tel: 0800 999 5786 (free from mobiles and landlines), 0741 520 6936 (Usual call rates apply)

Text us: 07415 206 936 we will respond during operating hours

Email: info@mwnhelpline.co.uk Emails answered during operating hours

Website: https://www.mwnhelpline.co.uk/


Samaritans

Whatever you’re facing, a Samaritan will face it with you. We’re here, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.

Call: 116 123 for free from any UK mobile phone network or landline provider (restrictions may be in place on landlines from some offices, organisations and care homes).

https://www.samaritans.org/

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