Demystifying Therapy

Week 1

Thank you to those who have shared their stories and experiences. If you're interested in doing the same, fill out this form and/or reach out to Layth (lalkhani@stanford.edu) or Howra (howra@stanford.edu).

The Demystifying Therapy campaign, launched by the Muslim Mental Health Initiative aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health in the Muslim community. One way to do this is through sharing stories of fellow Stanford Muslims' experiences with therapy. Follow along to read the stories of Stanford Muslims and demystify therapy.

 Story #1

Join one Stanford student as she recounts her experience with mental health stigma in her country and her efforts to address it

"I have struggled with my mental health in the past especially when I was coming to college. I have also used off-campus and on-campus resources to seek therapy, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my experience as 8 out of 10 because I dealt with a professional, California-based therapist who was very knowledgable.

As far as myths I have encountered in my country, if I talk about mental health, they said that it's not mentioned in the Quran, like it's not mentioned in religion. When I speak about mental health there, they think I'm a psychopath. For a girl, if she struggles with mental health, they would say something like: Oh, you need to get married, you don't have anything to do, you're bored. They say that since the girl has nothing else to do, and is thinking about anxiety and having panic attacks, she's bored, and she needs to get married. That's a common thing that everyone has in their household. Every girl.

I used to struggle with social anxiety when I was back home. I believe it was because of the pressure of extracurricular activities. My main job and responsibility was to interview people, conduct design thinking interviews with them so I used to go and talk with people in the streets. But the problem was that I was afraid and couldn't do it. And that was the main reason why I chose therapy. I had a very nice, knowledgeable therapist, and she used to give me a lot of activities that I needed to do on my own. For instance, one activity she suggested was for me to make two friends slowly to overcome my social anxiety. Another activity was for me to be vocal about my feelings, which might've meant for me to post about my feelings on social media or just share something about my life.

After benefiting from therapy myself, I was able to help others, starting with teenagers to destigmatize therapy in my country and make it easier for others to speak about their mental health.

 

Back in my country, I created the first platform addressing mental health and the stigma around it. My main goal was for teenagers to understand something about mental health and also for us to provide people who struggle with their mental health access to three free therapy sessions. In total, we got 300 responses and a lot of people went to therapy. Considering the culture around mental health, at first, it was hard because we got a lot of hate. At first, it was hard to involve teenagers too but then I believe I found a good audience that was open to speaking about mental health and that could understand the things that I was talking about. It was very beneficial for us to speak about therapy and mental health in order to destroy the stigma around it for teenagers."



 

 

Myth: Mental health is not mentioned in the Quran.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ

Indeed, those who have said, “Our Lord is Allah” and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], “Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.
41:30

The idea that mental health is not found within the Quran is misguided and inaccurate. When looking throughout the Quran we can see multiple examples of times in which Allah (SWT) highlights the conflict one can have with their self by mentioning destructive emotions and harmful conditioning as nafs al-ammara.


Even beyond these examples where Allah (SWT) highlights general conflicts one can have with themselves we also see specific examples of mental illnesses such as depression in verses such as Surah Fussilat, Aya 30.  











This verse and others like it clearly indicate how the Quran not only highlights that emotions such as grievance exist but also that it is okay for a believer to fall subject to these emotions.