A new NHS project suggests that Muslims with mental health issues could be treated via a differing framework.
Leeds University researchers found that Muslim patients re-embracing their beliefs and religious teachings had a positive impact on mental health outcomes.
Although therapists have traditionally refused to embrace religion as part of treatment, it is suggested that this approach may be misguided.
The project conducted in Leeds is “showing some individual signs of success”, researchers believe.
Scientists involved in the study believe that Muslims are often discriminated against by the mental healthcare system due to stigma attached to mental illness.
One sufferer outlined her experiences to the BBC.
“I just felt like I had to constantly keep myself strong and put on a brave face. Deep inside I was actually broken. When I actually fell apart, when I was at my lowest, I felt that there was something that I might have done to upset Allah, which is God.”
Lead researcher Dr Ghazala Mir, of the university’s Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, believes that such experiences are common within the Muslim community, and suggests that the healthcare system must be flexible in order to treat patients appropriately.
“This stigma does involve the idea that maybe if you need treatment, there might be something wrong with your faith identity in the first place. Not only is there under-referral but the outcomes for people who do actually get referred are not as good as the general population.”
Official NHS data indicates that British Muslims tend to be more vulnerable to depression, with lower rates of recovery.
Professor Ghazala Mir suggests that Muslims are under-referred and that the healthcare system tends to do a poor job of treating them.
“There are a lot of inconsistencies amongst practitioners about how they interpret culturally appropriate. We know that in Muslim populations people can get quicker results from faith-sensitive therapies that have been tested elsewhere in the world. They tend to use religion as a coping resource more than people in other religious groups.”
Mir has been involved in the creation of a new scheme of treatment, which is based on an existing form of cognitive behavioural therapy known as behavioural activation.
This has been piloted with 20 patients, and is now being provided by a mental health charity in Leeds.
Those who advocate this treatment believe that it should be rolled out across the country in the near future.