Islamic Culture And [Communities] Stigmatization of Mental Illness

Out of sincerity I forewarn all Muslims who read this poetry piece. Yes, I am Muslim. Yes, I suffer from at least one mental illness (that I know of). Secondly, as a Muslim I was taught to critically analyze and critique. This poetry piece is a critical critique of the Muslim community and our understanding of mental illness.

Our lack of mental health literacy as a community,
Our lack of mental health understanding as ‘scholars’,

Is frightening…

It is one of our biggest weaknesses as an Ummah,
Instead of showing compassion or trying to understand,
We blame the victim,
We have the nerve to state ‘he or she has been possessed’,

Are we trying to be funny?
Or are we actually [that] ignorant?

If someone suffers from Chronic Depression,
They are not possessed,

Instead it is a combination of chemical compounds,
Along with synapses and brain functionality,
Trauma and past experiences,
Which has led someone down the path of depression,

If someone suffers from Schizophrenia,
They are not possessed,

Instead it is a combination of dopamine and serotonin,
A change in the level of two neurotransmitters,
Trauma and past experiences,
Which has led someone down the path of schizophrenia,

The worst aspect of our ignorance,
Is when our scholars, students of knowledge, and loved ones,
Ignore it; dismiss it,
Whether we are talking about Arabs, Asians, or Black Muslims,

Mental illness is categorized as [shameful],
When we ask our pulpit leaders to speak up,
Did you know the lifetime alcohol use among Arab youth sits at 14.8 percent,
And the lifetime marijuana use jumped from 14.4 percent to 25.1 percent,

As a community, we are afraid to talk about mental illness,
We find it shameful even though Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
Spoke of Mental Illness and cared for his companions,
Who suffered from mental illness,

As a community what can we do?
First step is to acknowledge reality,
Muslims can suffer from mental illness,
Such [Muslims] have not been ‘possessed’,

Knowledge is power,
Whether you watch YouTube videos,
Read a book; visit a therapist,
Watch a documentary,

Have compassion,
We must destigmatize mental illness,
In the Muslim Community,
Otherwise our youth won’t survive,

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