Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in chatter about mental health. High profile people are discussing their own battles with it; websites are creating more articles, videos and social media posts on the subject; and charities have backed campaigns encouraging all of us to be more open and honest about mental health.
All of these shifts in the discourse are undoubtedly a great thing. Even so, the conversation has felt a bit too vague at times, failing to speak to the broad range (ie. everyone) of people mental health can affect.
For instance, it’s pretty rare to hear a Muslim voice on the subject. This may be because of a lack of Muslim representation in the media, due to cultural and religious pressure, or a combination of the two. Whatever the case, we wanted to speak to one young Muslim man who is opening up about mental health and helping others to do the same.
Adam Afghan (@sirabdabo) is a blogger and advocate working to end the stigma associated with mental health, particularly when it concerns Muslim men. We recently caught up with him to talk about his own struggles, faith, and getting men to open up.
Hi Adam. Firstly, what inspired you to start talking about mental health?
This is a long story, but it was basically when too many Muslim men were killing themselves, and someone I knew of committed suicide. I felt enough was enough, I felt obliged to do something about it.
Why is it important to have these conversations, not only around mental health but men’s mental health specifically?
The sad fact is men carry around their wounds and pain and keep it to themselves. They literally suffer in silence. There aren’t many outlets for men to speak up, feel comfortable about their hardships, and try to find a solution.
This stigma attached to discussing men’s mental health—what made you realise this was an overlooked topic?
This is a big topic, but essentially there is nothing to support Muslim men. Any talk or discussion held about mental health, it’s always supporting women. This has an even more subtle effect—that men don’t need to have these discussions and outlets. But men arguably need it as
much, or even more, than women.
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Firstly, jazakhAllah khair @faisalchdry for inviting me on the @freshly_grounded podcast. It gave me the opportunity to highlight to anyone going through mental hardship, there is a way out. There is hope. We need to help ourselves, if you are feeling low, or don't understand what's going on within your mind, please seek help, go to your family, friends, GP or therapist, make that first step. It saved my life. You have to be brave to defeat the monsters that are plaguing you, and with that bravery, the monster and hardship become easier to manage, and you will defeat it. We can all get through this together, inshAllah.
What would you want people to know when it comes to discussing their mental health?
It needs to be normalised. It needs to be treated like physical health. The process has started to make people more aware, but there is a long way to go, especially in the Muslim community.
How have men around you responded to your work tackling mental health head on?
Alhamdulillah, it has been good. However, I feel a lot more can be done.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might be dealing with mental health issues but doesn’t know which steps to take first?
Reach out to friends, or family. You have to speak about it. Go to the GP, find a private therapist if you have the money. Being brave and speaking about the issues in your mind is hard, but that bravery is what it takes to get better.
If you’re worried about your mental health, or simply want a person to talk to, these charities will offer support and advice:
Mind UK on 0300 123 3393
The Mix (for people under 25) on 0808 808 4994