Talking From The Heart 

By Reem Abu Hayyeh & Jinan Golley
By Reem Abu Hayyeh & Jinan Golley

Reem Abu Hayyeh and Jinan Golley introduce the resource, Talking From the Heart, and ask; what does shifaa’ or healing look like for the psychological ill-health of people of colour in the UK, particularly those of a Muslim background.

 

“There is a saying in Somali which says: ‘whatever you hide, hides you’.”

Imam Mukhtar Osman

 

For black and brown people in the UK, there are a variety of social factors that impact our mental well-being. From experiences of systemic and institutional racism, to traumas brought on by displacement, the process of healing is linked to a movement towards justice and equality. This wider struggle must run alongside practices of self-care and attempts to seek help or support, whether it be from our communities, mental health services and/or other health care services, and faith institutions.

 

Within Muslim communities in the UK there are those who do not reach out to others for help, nor seek mental health treatment for a number of reasons. These include societal or community stigma surrounding mental health issues, a lack of understanding around the kinds of support available and how to access them, mistrust of engaging with state institutions, and a cultural disconnect with articulations of mental health issues. For instance, clinical depression doesn’t translate directly into Urdu, Arabic, Bengali and Punjabi. And we found a number of organisations and services who thought all Muslims could speak Arabic, and printed pamphlets just in that language.

 

Talking from the Heart is a resource created by Maslaha to address the numerous issues Muslim communities face when engaging with and approaching mental health services. In collaboration with GPs, psychotherapists and imams, Talking From The Heart combines culturally-relevant medical and faith advice to explore mental health and therapy in Bengali/Sylheti, Somali, Urdu and English.

 

With the aim of demystifying therapy, Talking from the Heart comprehensively walks patients and practitioners through the process of seeking treatment and discussing what therapy entails. It goes over the practicalities of seeking care with input from Somali, Bangladeshi and Pakistani doctors and mental health services. Practitioners from the film outline the opportunity for patients to be accompanied by interpreters, family, community members and those from their religious community to support them during appointments or therapy sessions.  

 

The collaboration with imams extends the reach and effectiveness of the films to present healing as a holistic experience that is intrinsically tied to the practice of Islam, rather than being at odds with it. Dr. Manu Rahman, a family therapist featured in the film, responds to someone’s assertion that their “faith is weak” and that they are a “bad Muslim” when feeling low. Dr. Rahman highlights that those who

seek help and “address their challenges” often find that their faith is in fact strengthened.

 

In order to address the stigma that can exist within some Muslim communities around mental ill-health and our community’s attempts to keep these discussions quiet, the films also present guidance within hadith and Qur’an around self-care, health and personal faith. The healthcare professionals and imams both point to events described in the hadith literature of how the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions faced both great physical and mental challenges in their lives and journeys. While struggle itself is valued within Islam, the process of overcoming struggles, of healing, is part and parcel of this. As Imam Mukhtar Osman says, “Islam requires the person to respect themselves, and to work hard to improve and have confidence in themselves,” citing Surat Al-Ra’d: “Verily, never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (within their souls).” (13:11)

 

The films are not only aimed at those suffering from mental health issues, but they are also designed for practitioners and professionals. They seek to equip mental health practitioners and services with the knowledge and sensitivity needed to provide crucial support to those who sometimes fall between the cracks. As Abdul Hasan, a community activist, writes:

 

“[...] There is little point in encouraging vulnerable members of communities to speak up and talk about taboo, stigmatised aspects of mental life without similarly encouraging sensitive and open listening among health practitioners.”


 

To access the films, as well as other resources around support, visit www.talkingfromtheheart.org