I am someone who has had issues with mental health and I wanted to share my experience so it may help others. Last Ramadan I spent the whole month pretty much on my own battling with depression and isolation. I kept as many fasts as I could but felt so low because there wasn’t anyone to open the fast with. I decided to attend the public iftar events but still felt depressed. Looking on social media I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one in this situation. Isolation feeds depression which, in my case, made me feel suicidal.
I have been battling with mental health for some time now and recently I was admitted into hospital on a mental health ward. I tried to jump out of a 7th-floor window and end my life. Thankfully I was saved. Usually, when Ramadan arrives I feel so happy. I see it as a month where I have the opportunity to connect with Allah. However, this Ramadan I am on medication for my mental health and not taking it may lead to a relapse. There is a part of me that is very disappointed with myself. However, I am unwell and Allah would expect me to put my health first.
Anas ibn Malik narrates that: A woman, who had a defect in her brain, said: Allah’s Messenger, I want to talk to you. He said: Mother of so and so, choose on which side of the road you would like to stand and talk, so that I may fulfil your need. He stood with her on the sidewalk until she spoke to her heart’s content. Muslim 1081
If you are unwell mentally then please do not feel that you have to fast. Allah is merciful and he would not want you to suffer. There is a huge stigma attached to mental health within Muslim communities, although this is improving slightly. Many Muslims still think mental health is to do with being possessed by the jinn; something I actually thought was wrong with me when I first started to become unwell.
People are often afraid to talk about mental health because they feel they may be discriminated against for work, healthcare and education. I believe that, as a community, we need to support those with mental health and openly talk about it. Having a mental health condition or feeling depressed shouldn’t be embarrassing. Please offer support to those suffering with mental health conditions. Kind words and messages on social media made a huge difference to my health whilst I was feeling depressed.
Lastly, remind Muslims struggling with mental health that they are not alone. Invite those who are alone for iftar and offer support. You will be surprised how uplifting that can feel for those suffering with mental health.
Please don’t suffer with mental health in silence. Speak to your GP or call a helpline. They will point you in the right direction. If things become unbearable then call 999