Young Muslim women in our communities face a unique set of struggles in their complex identities. In Australia, over three-quarters of mental health issues already occur before the age of 25. But the intersectionality of being young, being Muslim and being female all contribute to mental wellness, often even more so than other young Australians.
As a part of our mission to uplift young women and help them become their best selves, we, at MWA are eager to present a video that encourages the young Muslim women and girls of our communities to speak up about their mental health struggles. Filmed at our MWA Retreat on the weekend of 30 September to 2 October at Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation in Narrabeen, in this video, MWA and MYAC have an open and honest discussion on mental health – how it affects young Muslim women and what more we, as a community, can do to advocate for their needs.
Being Young, Female and Muslim – The MWA Perspective
At the retreat, the MYAC girls discussed how one of the most common things that affect young people’s mental health is the pressure and expectation to always have things together, even when life gets hard. On top of juggling school and work and discrimination, young people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and faith-based backgrounds are also impacted by racism, as well as discrimination and stereotypes. These struggles, while not always overt, can make young people, especially young Muslim women, question their identity and sense of worth and their understanding of what being a healthy successful person really means.
However, MWA and MYAC also discussed ways we can overcome the challenges life throws at us and find strength in the unique identities we have as individuals. One of the tips was to practise mindfulness by slowing down and being aware of your actions, thoughts and surroundings. Living in a digital and hyper-vigilant world can make everything feel too overwhelming. But being able to filter out those distractions by slowing down helps our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Another element that was said to benefit mental health is having a good support network in a positive environment. Our identities are always forming, so it’s important to have someone or a few people within your community to whom you can reach out for trusted guidance and support. People who understand you, your family, your culture and your faith, and can help you navigate the challenges that you are faced with. Where you don’t feel pressured to “fit in”, get lifted up when you feel down and feel safe to ask questions and question assumptions.
When you have a community you can be yourself around, who won’t judge you and will be there to guide and support you, you have a comforting presence that boosts your confidence in your identity and mental health.
How are Australian Communities Supporting Young Muslims and their Mental Health?
A study done by Macquarie University found that young Muslims in Australia are not getting their mental health needs met. Muslim girls aged 11–17 years, in particular, were reported to face substantially more difficult social, emotional and behavioural struggles in their mental health issues than other young people their age.
Islamophobia, racism, discrimination, stereotypes, trying to grapple with Western ideas of success, navigating faith and overcoming stigmas around mental health are all issues young Muslim women face. Alone, each of these issues is tough for anyone to deal with. But combined, these vulnerabilities can make one feel alone in their struggles, especially when it seems like no one in their community wants to step up and start the conversation on mental health.
There need to be more avenues for our young Muslim women and girls to feel heard in their mental health struggles. Safe and welcoming spaces where the unique vulnerabilities of being Muslim, young and female are understood and validated. Looking after our health, especially our mental health, is an important aspect of Islam. As it’s through our confidence, joy and openness in ourselves and our faith that gives us the strength to power through even the darkest days.
Helping Young Muslim Women Struggling with Mental Health
At MWA, we want young Muslim women of our community to know that they’re not alone. You don’t need to struggle in silence. There are people who can help you overcome barriers and that allow you to meet your mental health needs.
We that being a young Muslim woman can be hard, especially when your identity is questioned and undermined. That’s why MWA and MYAC advocate for and host programs that allow young Muslim women to explore the intersectionally of their identity in a safe and welcoming environment.
We understand and believe that Islam and faith can be the element that strengthens mental health. Islam itself comes from the word “peace”. Connecting to Allah (SWT) every day through our five daily prayers, recitation of the Quran and other acts of worship can really bring a sense of peace and calm to the mind and heart. It is also through knowing the Mercy of Allah (SWT) and being able to reach out to Him for anything that one can also find the encouragement to seek help and guidance for their mental health struggles.
That’s why this video strives to help young Muslim women realise their unique strengths. As a young Muslim woman, you have the power and passion to use your energy and youthfulness to help others and make meaningful connections. You know your purpose to seek contentment and fulfilment in the Kindness of our Mighty Creator. All these combined can help you get through the struggles and challenges you face and achieve your mental health goals. Your community and Allah (SWT) are with you. So, as a young Muslim woman, don’t ever hesitate to seek guidance and support when you need it.