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Ottawa Muslims Address Mental Health Taboo

OTTAWA – Breaking a taboo for many families, a group of Ottawa Muslim mental health workers and community advocates are planning a conference later this month to help those suffering in silence.

“There is a lack of discussion and conversation around mental health within the Muslim community, whether it’s violence against women, whether it’s abuse in the home, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, suicide,” Berak Hussain, a counselor at Carleton University, told CBC News on Wednesday, May 4.

Hussain’s decision to interfere and offer Muslims due help followed the incident when two local Muslim men took their lives a couple of years ago.

Mona Ghadban, another Canadian Muslim, has also suffered from anxiety and depression for years.

For the Carleton University student, no much help was offered from the local Muslim community.

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“And even if there is, [mental illness] is heavily criticized and it’s a taboo,” Ghadban said.

“Information is supposed to stay within the family and it’s difficult to share any feelings of turmoil with your family because they have a biased opinion,” she added.

Offering help, a group of mental health workers and community advocates decided to address the issue.

First help came after the group started to organize monthly meetings for local Muslims to tackle those topics in an open, honest way.

Moreover, the group will hold the Serenity Islamic Mental Health Awareness Conference later this month at Carleton University, with plans to make it an annual event.

Hussain said she hopes the conference will help reach those who feel a sense of shame around mental health issues.

Moreover, she hopes to destigmatize the issue of mental health, using faith to reach out to those in need of help.

“It is part of the faith in terms of self-actualization, self-healing,” Hussain said.