Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) calls on people to reach out for help during crisis. Islamic Relief UK and MYH also urge the Muslim community to be more aware of mental health and to support the helpline with its crucial work.
MYH, which provides pioneering faith and culturally sensitive services to Muslim youth in the UK, has seen a staggering sharp rise in calls relating to mental health and suicidal thoughts during the Covid-19 crisis.
The helpline has seen a 313% rise in calls since March 2020. Helpline officers have answered calls from many young people struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and religious guilt.
As the crisis continues, Islamic Relief UK has offered to support the award winning charity with funding of £20,000 to ensure that the work continues and all calls to the helpline are answered.
People can access support from Muslim Youth Helpline by calling 0808 808 2008 or going to their website, www.myh.org.uk
Many families in the Muslim community are not recognising the seriousness of mental health issues, which can worsen the situation for the many who are suffering.
One anonymous caller to the helpline said: “I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety. Every time I try to speak with my parents about it, they think it has to do with faith as they do not believe in mental illness. I’m not sure what to do.”
According to recent research in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (1), Muslims in the UK are less inclined, compared to other religious groups, to seek mental health services because they highlight a preference for help with a religious underpinning. A poll was also conducted by Muslim Youth Helpline which showed 40.2% of Muslim men said they talked to nobody about mental health (2).
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated people’s mental health and the helpline has also reported an unprecedented rise in calls on anxiety and panic attacks.
Another anonymous caller said: “I’ve been struggling with lockdown and being inside all the time. I’m scared to go outside, even just in my neighbourhood for a walk as I’m scared to run into people. I’m scared living like this will keep making my anxiety worse.”
“I’ve been feeling suicidal, but do not want to go through with it because of my faith. I’ve been self-harming instead to deal with my feelings. I feel stuck, and don’t know what the next step for me should be.”
Maaria Mahmood, Director of Muslim Youth Helpline, said: “Since the beginning of lockdown, our primary concerns on the helpline have been on faith and spirituality, family issues, suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety due to long periods of staying at home and fear of losing jobs and opportunities. On average, around 10% of our calls each month relate to suicide/suicidal thoughts.
“At MYH, we quickly adapted to working from home to cater and answer calls for support. Our helpline officers have gone above and beyond to make sure the helpline ran during the lockdown, by opening their homes and taking calls from their living rooms and bedrooms.
“We continue to answer enquiries from young people who are feeling the lockdown’s weight. The pandemic has gravely impacted our community, and we have a task ahead to address the concerns that have been brought to the surface and right all the wrongs experienced. MYH is ready to continue to support the community through our helpline.
“We have been working hard to answer our growing number of calls. We urgently need support and funding to continue our work.”
Tufail Hussain, Director of Islamic Relief UK, said: “It is truly alarming that so many people are struggling with mental health issues and we need to do everything we can to support the vital work of MYH.
“Muslims always turn to God for help during difficult times, but our faith also teaches us to seek help from others as well and it is vital for us to get help from the crucial services that are available for our mental health.
“We must come together as a community and try to address these issues to help young people. We must recognise that mental health is a serious issue and cannot be ignored. The Covid-19 crisis is worsening the situation and I also call on others to help and support the important work of MYH.”
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