In life, we all face challenges that test our limits. The physical, mental and spiritual challenges we experience in our lives have the power to make us stronger and give us the resolve to overcome even greater difficulties. But when we don’t have the support network to help us through these struggles, it can be difficult to summon the strength we need to deal with them in our day-to-day life.
Young people, especially, face unique challenges that affect their wellbeing. Risks to mental health, in particular, are found to disproportionately affect young people, as over three-quarters of mental health issues occur before the age of 25. The struggles the young people in our community face with school, family, friends and other commitments can pile up and get overwhelming, especially at a stage of life where many people are figuring out who they are and need guidance from positive role models.
That’s why, in Islam, great importance is given to youth and mental health. Looking after our mental health, especially when we’re younger, allows us to fulfil our obligations, achieve our goals and make the changes we want to see in our community. It is our youth that are the most formative years in our lives and shape our worldview the most.
In a hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas, The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.” (Sahih Al-Albani)
So it’s important for us to look after the young people in our community and take their mental health seriously. And that includes implementing programs and initiatives that destigmatise mental illness in the context of both wider society and our diverse Muslim community.
CALD and Faith-Based Communities and Mental Health
When it comes to talking about mental health, young people from multicultural, multilingual and faith-based backgrounds need to be included in the conversation.
Young people from CALD and faith-based communities face unique barriers that can prevent them from speaking about mental health and accessing help services. It can be because, in some communities, mental health is never spoken about or problems such as mental illness are told to be kept private. This stigma then becomes a serious obstacle for young people in these communities to seek out mental health support or ask their family members for help.
But some obstacles can also come from the wider community as well. In a Western country, such as Australia, it may be hard to find mental health services that are sensitive to the needs of someone from a CALD or religious background seeking mental health support. Needs that include being able to communicate to their family members in their culture’s language and taking cultural values or spirituality into consideration when giving treatment for mental health issues.
For everyone in our communities to feel truly connected and supported, we need to have mental health services that accommodate our CALD and faith-based families. Culture and religion play a crucial role in how we see the world. It shapes a large part of our values and how we connect with other people. So to have culture and religion overlooked in our support systems means excluding important members of our community when we talk about mental health.
Young people of CALD and faith-based backgrounds especially need a space where they can have their voices heard and speak freely about their mental health. A safe space where they can discuss with their family and community members how their culture and religion might affect their mental health and, in turn, how it can also have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
To create this dialogue and work towards destigmatising mental health and mental health issues in all our communities, it is essential that we are not just equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to be active in their own circle, but also externally within the broader community.
That’s why our work at MWA aims to provide initiatives and programs that create opportunities for our young community members to feel supported in the most important aspects of their life. From school to family, community to faith, we will continue to provide our youth with the tools they need to thrive in their wellbeing and beyond.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can be crippling if it persists and is paired with other stressful life conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms, know that you are not alone. Seek services that are professional and relevant to your condition, such as Hayat Line at 1300 993 398 and Head to Health at 1800 595 212.