The conversation of mental illness in the Muslim Community: What’s the perception of mental illness in religious communities?

What is the purpose of this topic?

For this project, I was curious to investigate the perception of mental illness in religious communities. I set out to explore this topic in Islam, through interviews and research. This was a fascinating topic for me, because I’ve grown up in a family that follows an organized religion; I never felt like mental health was something that was talked about, and I wanted to understand why.  

From my findings, I’ve discovered that in the past, religious groups didn’t acknowledge mental illnesses publicly that often; part of this invalidation comes from the stigma around mental illness in various cultures. However, in recent years, as the stigma around mental illness is lessened, there has been more conversation around the topic.

Some perspectives

A firsthand source, a Muslim 20 year-old who lives in Texas, said, ““I think a lot of people think you should just turn to God. But recently there’s been a lot of talk about how Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him), the main prophet in Islam, had periods of depression. Traditionally, people would say you just need to pray more. But now, on college campuses, there’s been more talk and discussion about this.”

Furthermore, a BBC article highlighted the story of a girl named Hanaa. She read about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and how he dealt with “extreme states and trials.” He would go for walks and exercise, and practice mindfulness through prayer. The article stated, “Hanaa feels that although terminology around mental health is relatively recent, mental health conditions have always existed, and they occur in every culture in the world.” She felt that ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ often held a stigma. 

Evidence from the Qur’an

The Qur’an states, “We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. – Qur’an 29:2-3.” An article from discussed how one person interpreted this: “[God] tested believers before, and He’ll test believers now. To say that depression is a sign of weak faith is to imply that those with bad lives are guilty of being bad Muslims, and this completely contradicts what we know about the most righteous people. In fact, the more righteous you are, the more likely you are to be tested.” 


In conclusion, it seems that cultural misunderstanding and the stigma around mental illness fogs the perception of how religion truly interprets mental illnesses. Right now, I think this conversation is still evolving, and it’s important to bring light to this very important discussion. Get involved by starting this conversation with family and friends. Share your thoughts, and ask questions to those around you. 

Works cited:


Please share below in this poll what your perception of mental illness in religious communities is:

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  1. April 24, 2020 by Raag Venkat

    Amber, your presentation is elegant in nature and the topic is influential. I loved the image – it is dramatic, refined, and in harmony with your research and investigations. I also appreciate your in-depth research into the Qur’an. How can I start the conversation with my community and family? Why do you think religion has dictated so many rules and standards in history? Great work – your project deserves recognition worldwide.

  2. April 25, 2020 by Grace H.

    This is such meaningful and terrific work that you are doing for your community. I love the organization and deep dive into the evidence. Amazing!

  3. April 26, 2020 by Isabell

    Hello Amber, I think it is an absolutely amazing presentation and the amount of effort you put into this definitely shines through. I think the way people react to certain mental illnesses can be influenced by religion but I don’t think the only reason people react a certain to illness is because of religion. I think generalizing the reaction of mental illness is based only on religion is not the best and can cause a stigma towards a specific religion as a result.

    • April 27, 2020 by Amber

      Hi Isabell! Thanks for your comment! I completely agree, and don’t think that there should be any sort of generalizations made about religions creating a stigma against mental illnesses. However, my presentation wasn’t saying this; I was just relaying experiences some people have had in the community. I wanted to emphasize the fact that the stigma toward mental illness is not from religion itself, but is just misinterpreted by some people. This presentation was meant to actually highlight the fact that mental illness is seen as legitimate in Islam, and it would be great for people to openly discuss it.

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