Dr. Nadia Rahman is a GP in London, UK. In this section, she offers her advise on how to overcome mental health issues such as depression. Addicts and families affected by addiction may find a number of various mental health issues are effecting their well-being. Mental Health is something not to be ignored. Addiction and mental health issues go hand in hand. Its a chicken and egg situation. It can be difficult to tell whether it was the addiction that caused the depression or it was the depression that caused the addiction. Which ever way round it is we have solutions. Here Dr. Nadia Rahman offers some of them;
‘Strategies for Overcoming Depression, Anxiety and Stress’ By Dr. Nadia Rahman
Addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress fall under the same umbrella of Mental Health conditions. As with all Mental Health Conditions there are, unfortunately, great stigmas attached to it, which seems to be the primary reason why a lot of people may not seek help (Wrigley et al. 2005). Being of the Indo-pak / subcontinent culture, stigma is often more prevalent than in other western cultures, as the person is looked upon as being weak and lowly, almost becoming an outcast in society. A few years ago mental health was never spoken about and was brushed under the carpet in many Muslim cultures like South Asians and Arabs and Somalis.
As a GP working in a very multi-ethnic area, I have started to notice a gradual change over the last few years. More and more people and families are starting to acknowledge these problems and this is truly the first steps of recovery for the individual affected. Individuals and carers are crying out for help on the NHS, but the problem now is long waiting times due to lack of resources and funding.
So what is the solution?
While waiting for professional help on the NHS, self help treatments and having a good support network of good friends and families are vital for those suffering from mental health issues. There is no doubt that these 2 important factors need to be present before any sort of recovery from any health / mental health problem can begin.
Even though the conditions itself may seem very different the management for all these conditions can be categorised into drug treatment, and therapies. I strongly recommend that anyone suffering with any of these conditions to see their GP to discuss further as each treatment needs to be tailored to the individual affected.
There is a new, and amazing, therapy (which has been scientifically proven to help) that I would like to mention, mainly because of its similarity to the teachings of Islam. The following has been taken from the bemindful website:
“Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was designed specifically to help people who are prone to recurring depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression. Long-term courses of antidepressants are typically used to treat recurring depression. However, almost three-quarters of GPs think mindfulness meditation would be helpful for people with mental health problems, and a third already refer patients to MBCT on a regular basis.”
MBCT has been scientifically proven to help people with a range of mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome & insomnia, all of which addicts are often diagnosed with, often misdiagnosed as the patient resists to mention the extent of their substance misuse problems.
MBCT is also recommended by the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for people who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression.
MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip them over into depression. It also gives people a greater awareness of their own body, helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts.
MBCT techniques include the ‘three-minute breathing space’ – a meditation exercise that gives people a quick and easy way to step back from stressful situations – and preparing ‘relapse prevention plans’ to help people lift their mood when depression starts to creep up on them. It’s so effective that it could reduce the risk of a person experiencing a recurrence of depression by over 50 per cent.
I was fortunate enough to have a taster session in Mindfulness and the key component is having a strong awareness of our surroundings and then to focus that awareness on ourselves, on our movements, on our feelings. Instantly it made me think of my salah (prayer). We are encouraged to have ‘khushoo’ in our salah – (a great attentiveness and sincerity), and being aware that Allah is in front of us even though we can’t see Him (swt), we know He (swt) can see us. We have also been taught to pray as we have seen our beloved prophet (saw) pray, which is to pray slowly, taking care where our hands, fingers, feet, and even eyes are positioned.
“Then he should do rukoo, bowing as deeply as his joints will let him, until his joints take the new position and are relaxed in it.” This is an essential part of prayer. Whilst straightening up, he should say, “Sami’a Allaahu liman hamidah (Allaah listens to the one who praises Him).” Then he should stand straight until every vertebra has returned to its place. This is an essential part of the prayer.”
A lot of these therapies teach the individual to let go of negative thoughts, and to be positive and upbeat. Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Ibrahim of The Qur’an;
“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” (14:34)
As Muslims, we are encouraged to be positive. If we counted the blessings and contemplated on what Allah has given us we would never be able to be negative or down, we would always be able to see the positives even in the most dire of circumstances. This was said about Dr Taufiq, the doctor that tragically lost his entire family, including his wife and 5 children, in a house fire. Read about this tragic story here
Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister, from Leicestershire Police, praised Dr Taufiq’s “amazing strength” while sitting through the two-month trial. He added:
“He has lost his entire family in the most tragic of circumstances and has had to hear some very disturbing details of their final moments. It is difficult to understand how someone could cope with this but Dr Taufiq has done so with the greatest amount of dignity and courage. My hope is that he can begin to move on from this devastating tragedy and continue to draw the immense strength from his religion to be the inspiring man I believe he is.”
What is it that is helping Dr Taufiq? It is no doubt his love and trust in Allah, and knowing that Allah has not forsaken him. He has not allowed himself to be over taken by negative thoughts and feeling and even mentioned how, he “bore no hatred towards their killers.”
Is mental health acknowledged in Islam?
It most definitely is! There are countless Verses, Quranic stories, hadith (narrations from the Prophet Muhammad) and duas (prescribed prayers and supplications), about feeling down and depressed. Allah created us and Allah knows how we can feel, and so we have also been given the tools to bring us out of that path when we may fall into it.
In the supplication book Hisnul Muslim there is a specific section for anxiety and sorrow:
“O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”
The main tool and guidance is given in this dua – The Quran. If we were to use the mindfulness theory to be more aware and to concentrate on the words we recite, where our tongue moves to when we recite, the sounds of the letters in our ears when we recite, and the feelings in our heart when we recite, there is no doubt that within that would be our solace. The next part is to actually understand the words and to contemplate on it and to benefit from the lessons from within, so truly this book was given as a guidance, a guidance for every situation, every feeling and just for everything!
Finally, the last dua that is very small which I strongly recommend that we all learn and implement in our daily lives, like saying it when we are waking about our business before we sleep. The meaning is profound and is very relevant to the symptoms and sign people with mental health problems may experience:
“O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.”
1) Sarah Wrigley,Henry Jackson,Fiona Judd and Angela Komiti (2005) ‘Role of stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking from a general practitioner for mental health problems in a rural town’ . Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005