Understanding Muslim Mental Health
In this project, we combine the Islam-UK Centre's expertise on faith-based chaplaincy and pastoral care with contributions from specialists in mental health to produce a course that will benefit anyone who deals with mental health issues in Muslim communities or is interested in gaining a better understanding of these issues. The course will be hosted on the FutureLearn platform and will be available free of charge
The Understanding Muslim Mental Health course is an outcome of a joint event held between the mental health charity ‘MIND Cymru’, and the Islam-UK Centre at Cardiff University. In April 2018 we invited Consultant Psychiatrist and Islamic scholar, Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf to deliver a lecture entitled, ‘Approaches to Depression and Anxiety in Classical Islam: From Abu Zayd to Abu Hamid.’ The popularity and interest in this event signalled the need to develop accessible learning resources to support the work of chaplains, social workers, mental health nurses, imams, youth workers, counsellors, doctors, and other similar health and pastoral carers in their engagement with Muslim clients.
While the religious worldview and practices of Muslims are a significant source of comfort and wellbeing for them, the socio-economic and circumstantial pressures facing some Muslims (especially those living as minorities) also pose challenges. Islamophobic and racial prejudice, refugee status, or post-traumatic stress arising from experiences of civil conflict overseas may lead to particular kinds of mental ill-health. Meanwhile, like members of the general population, Muslims can experience and suffer from depression, stress, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other common mental health disorders.
Successfully meeting the mental health needs of Muslims may mean having a contextualised appreciation of their spiritual worldview and religious commitments. Their faith may be a significant resource in helping them to overcome mental ill-health.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) identify poor mental health as a global concern:
- depression is one of the leading causes of disability
- suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds
- people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions
- People with mental health conditions can experience human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma
- Growing evidence suggests that mental health issues affect British Muslims more than other faith communities; higher levels and longer-term depression have been found among Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in Britain (Fazil & Cochrane 2003; Mir et al 2019)
- Muslims in Britain are under-referred to therapy services for mental health problems (Mir et al 2019). When Muslims do access mental health services, their rates of improvement are lower (BBC 2017)
- The occurrence of such mental health issues may be exacerbated by the social location of some migrant communities for whom it is easier, arguably, to feel marginalised and isolated from the mainstream
- A significant body of literature shows that faith - through positive religious coping - can be effective in addressing and preventing depression and improving quality of life (Mir et al 2019)
- Additionally, Pilkington et al (2012) found that specific cultural ideas around shame and the causes of mental illness among Muslims in Britain impact on service use. Put simply, poor mental health can be seen as a symptom of ‘bad faith’ and carries with it a social stigma which inhibit its detection and effective treatment (Ciftci 2015; Barmina 2017)
- Further, there is evidence that mainstream health care practitioners and service providers lack an adequate understanding of cultural sensitivities surrounding mental health in British Muslim communities which lead to inappropriate or ineffective interventions (Hussain 2009; Jozaghi et al 2016)
- Whilst mental health practitioners may see the benefits of including spiritual and religious matters in their assessment and treatment of mental health illness, opportunities to learn more about issues of cultural diversity, and to feel confident in incorporating this knowledge into their practice, are limited (Dura-Vila et al. 2011; Keshavarzi and Haque 2013; Mir 2019)
- Trust and collaboration are required to ensure those with the greatest need have access to appropriate mental health services. This might be achieved through: equipping practitioners with a greater understanding of Islam as a core aspect of people’s identity and preferred way of coping; creating better awareness among Muslim communities of the mental health services available to them (Byrne et al. 2017)
The Understanding Muslim Mental Health project team will build upon the Islam-UK Centre’s successful collaboration with MIND and Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf. We will work closely with Cardiff University’s Centre for Education Support and Innovation to build on the success of the Islam-UK Centre’s flagship Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges to specifically examine issues of mental health among British Muslims. By drawing upon our existing research on chaplaincy and pastoral care in Muslim communities we will work in partnership with an existing network of academics and practitioners who have both experience in working within the field of mental health, and expertise in Islamic approaches to mental health and well-being.
Aims and objectives
The project will bring together a range of experts and practitioners with first-hand experience of dealing with mental health issues among British Muslims. Drawing on their collective experience and expertise, we aim to:
- identify causes of mental health among British Muslim communities
- examine perceptions and experiences of particular manifestations of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, delusional states or personality disorders among British Muslims
- explore the perceived relationship between mental health and spiritual health
- examine gaps and best practice in existing service provisions for Muslim patients
- identify ways in which existing service provisions can be enhanced
- develop a bank of resources to help healthcare professionals understand the cultural sensitivities surrounding mental health in Muslim communities.
The key output will be the production of an online course hosted on the FutureLearn platform and available free of charge. FutureLearn is the UK’s first MOOC platform and currently offers over 330 courses delivered through 139 partner institutions to over 8 million leaners.
This course will introduce pastoral and mental health professionals to some of the distinctive ways in which they might understand and support the mental health needs of Muslim clients and patients.
Course materials will be prepared in relation to academic research that currently exists about Muslims and mental health, and the work of leading practitioners. Course content will be in the form of written articles and informative videos, accompanied by engaging learning activities and opportunities for reflection. We will highlight relevant agencies and resources to guide practitioners to sources of more advanced information.
Our introductory programme of learning will not replace responsible referral to emergency services.
Who will benefit from the course?
The course will be accessible to a broad range of learners with a wide range of ability and pre-knowledge. Course material will be designed to appeal to different learning styles and will be useful for anyone who deals with mental health issues in Muslim communities.
Course content will be of particular relevance to mental health and social care professionals who are keen to develop and enhance their cultural competencies in order to better provide for the needs of the communities they serve; this would include mental health care professionals, social workers, chaplains and imams. In addition, Muslims who are themselves experiencing issues around mental health provision or who encounter challenging attitudes within their own communities would gain from much of the content covered in this course.
Accreditation: The team are exploring options that will allow continuing professional development (CPD) accreditation to be incorporated into the course. The course will be designed to allow learners to choose their level of learning, with compulsory elements for those seeking CPD credit.
The project team
Project oversight: Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Sophie Gilliat-Ray is Professor in Religious and Theological Studies and Founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK; she is committed to research that promotes understanding of Islam and the life of Muslim communities in Britain. She has conducted extensive research on chaplaincy, especially in prisons and hospitals, since 1994. Over decades of research, Professor Gilliat-Ray has developed a network of academics and practitioners on chaplaincy and pastoral care in Muslim communities which will be key to the development of the Understanding Muslim Mental Health Course. Professor Gilliat-Ray was appointed as an OBE in the 2020 New Year Honour's List, and in 2019, elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. In 2018, she took up her role as a member of the panel for the 2021 REF for Theology and Religious Studies.
Content oversight: Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf
Dr Yusuf is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Islamic scholar, with a special interest in spirituality and mental health. He holds a number of formal teaching authorisations in classical Islamic disciplines; has authored works in spirituality, history and Islamic law; and sits on the advisory boards of a number of charities and community initiatives. Dr Yusuf brings a wealth of theological and practice-based knowledge and expertise to the course and will oversee the development of course content.
Project management and content development: Dr Asma Khan, Islam-UK Centre
Dr Khan is a mixed methods (QUANT-QUAL) researcher whose research interests include the impacts of migration and socio-economic inequalities on the everyday lives of British Muslims. Asma is responsible for the day-to-day management of the project and the development of course content.
Production lead: Dewi Parry, Centre for Education Support
Dewi Parry is a Learning Technology Manager within the Centre for Education Support and Innovation. He has completed dozens of technology-enhanced education projects across the University, including several online courses provided through the University’s strategic partner, FutureLearn. A member of the Islam UK Centre management board, Dewi has worked on several online course projects with the Islam UK Centre and has oversight of learning design and educational development for the course.
Production manager: Mark Bryant, Islam-UK Centre
Mark has been Development Officer at the Islam UK Centre since 2008. He was the production manager for Cardiff University’s first Mass Online Open Course (MOOC) Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges. and the CPD accredited Discovering British Muslims online course. Having worked closely with CESI in the development of these courses, Mark brings significant experience and expertise in the development of online courses on Muslims in Britain.
Learning technologist: Andy Hilbourne, Centre for Education Support
Andy Hilbourne is Media Technology Officer at the Centre for Education Support and Innovation, specialising in providing media production services across the university. He has worked on a range of digital learning and education projects and has supported the production of previous Islam-UK Centre online courses. As Learning Technologist, Andy is responsible for producing multimedia learning resources for the course.