Removing the stigma of addiction and mental health transforms the Muslim community

Removing the stigma of addiction and mental health transforms the Muslim community

Aiming to reduce the harm associated with substance use and mental health illness in Muslim communities, Canadian researchers recently conducted a study that revealed how critical it is to develop culturally appropriate faith-based programs and efforts to remove stigmas.

“Quite often, people are not fully aware that aspects of their religious worldview speak about the everyday ups and downs, and depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges,” said Sanaa Majid, a member of the executive team of the Healing Opportunities through Prevention and Education (HOPE) Project — a faith-based program that works to raise awareness on how to identify and prevent harm related to mental illness and addiction in the Muslim community.

Researchers from the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University analyzed the efficacy of programs such as HOPE, by asking 16 open-ended questions regarding experiences with clients to a sample of five women and three men, including six mental health and addiction caseworkers of the Muslim Food Bank and Community Services (MFBCS), a psychiatrist, and a Ministry of Justice caseworker. The research team also analyzed the effectiveness of the MFBCS’s ASPIRE (Actualizing Self‐Reliance by Providing Inspiration, Resources and Education) Program, and pointed out that cultural and religious minorities don’t have enough access to culturally appropriate addiction or mental illness treatment programs.

“We have a long way to go to de-stigmatizing health, not just in the Muslim community, but in Canada as a whole,” she said. “That being said, we recognize that there are community-specific stigmas, and so we build our strategies with a view to these.”

The researchers highlighted that the Muslim population is one of the fastest growing religious minority groups in Canada and although they contribute positively to society, they also make up 6 percent of the country’s inmates.

After analyzing the interviews, researchers revealed that the strict interpretation of Islam has limited the understanding of addiction and mental health issues and restricted assimilation and progression. They also concluded that culturally appropriate education must demonstrate that Islamic values are not harmed by helping loved ones with substance abuse or mental health concerns.

One participant noted that fear of… (continue reading)