Addressing Depression in Muslim Communities

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to meet some family members I didn’t see for a while. We were all discussing the last news that shocked all the neighborhood ; in fact some woman committed suicide after her son sold the motorcycle she just bought him. All my aunties and their friends were horrified and no one could understand how anyone could kill himself for such reason, until someone told us that indeed she was diagnosed with depression not long ago but that she wasn’t taking her medicine on time. One of my aunts then stated : « Well, all this come from weak Iman (Faith) in God, and this wouldn’t have happened if she was a strong believer in god » . This made me realize how depression  isn’t well perceived and acknowledged in our Moroccan society and particularly in Muslim community . I did some research and what i found left me astonished : in reality according to the latest survey , ” 40 % of the Moroccan population aged 15 and over suffers or has suffered from a mental illness ” and Morocco still does not have neither the necessary facilities nor the medical support to provide the treatment needed to all patients .

But what’s most worrying about the situation, is that, like this woman’s case, if people can’t accept that mental disorders need actually medical treatment and are not always due to low « iman » like what my aunt thought, even with good care and proper treatment nothing will change.
Bear in mind dear reader, that depression is very serious and often considered shameful in our society ; and having dealt with it myself, let me give you 5 tips to help a friend or a family member fighting depression :

1- Do NOT EVER blame someone’s depression on lack of faith in god : Although the causes of depression are still not fully understood by many scientists, it is mainly caused by chemical imbalance in the brain, so it’s not the person’s fault and he’s not responsible for whatever is happening to him.
2- Be a good listener and not a lecturer : Depressed people often have low self esteem and negative mindset, they start to question everything and have load of insecurities, so knowing that they have someone to talk to is liberating. Don’t judge them, tell them it’s okay to feel that way and that nothing’s ‘wrong’ with them. Give them a shoulder to cry on, and show them as many love and support as you can. Remind them why you love them and show them all the qualities they have but can’t see in their state of mind.
3- Get them to talk to a specialist : Most people suffering from depression have suicidal tendencies, and telling them it’s ‘Haram’ won’t help, trust me ! Telling them to pray more isn’t the solution either. Warning ! I’m not stating that getting closer to god can’t help, it always do ; but we can agree that if someone is bleeding from an injury praying only without medicine and treatment won’t heal him. And make sure he takes his medecine on time ; antidepressants alter mood by affecting naturally occurring brain chemicals, so it’s not something to play with.
4-Surround them with positive energy : Spend time with them, make them laugh, go out together, in simple words : do NOT leave them alone even if they push you away, they tend to withdraw into themselves and think they’re bothering everyone with their problems. Act like they are fine when they are around you and, like I said beforehand, do some activities with them, like sports or whatever. Keep them occupied !
5- Reconnect them with God : No, I’m not contradicting myself. Tell them to Pray, or accompagny them to the mosque. Tell them to talk to God and to complain to him. Make them read and listen to Quran : We shouldn’t forget that hearts do find peace in the remembrance of God. Remind them to be patient, it’s not for nothing that patience is one among the doors leading to Heaven in Islam. Maybe this is their key to paradise…

Last but not least, depression is still so underrated in our societies, and is lived differently depending on each person. The most difficult is to diagnose it and actually know when one’s just being ‘sad’ and when he is really suffering from depression. So, search about depression. Read about it. It will definitely help to be knowledgeable. And for any depressed person reading this, remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel ; and when the sky seems in its darkest shade to you, know it means the sun will be rising soon.

By : Hajar Afechkar



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