As the world faces a crisis together, people have never been more alone.
The new normal includes grocery sanitation, face masks, distance from loved ones, and constant fear of death by coronavirus and toilet paper shortages.
The American Psychological Association found that stress weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to viruses. This means that now more than ever, mental health needs to be prioritized.
To help communities cope, Muslim organizations have found ways to help people by connecting virtually.
The Family and Youth Institute, an organization focused on mental health, marriage counseling and parenting from an Islamic perspective, created an online tool kit of information, Wellbeing in the Time of Coronavirus.
The resource is free for the public and offers information about coping with the pandemic, including how to shift your mindset, cope with grief, and understand anxiety. The FYI also listed Islamic resources, like supplications, prayers, and religious programming.
One such supplication for depression and anxiety read, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from worry and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and miserliness, from being heavily in debt and from being overpowered by others.”
The tool kit also has self-care regimens, at-home workout plans, and soothing wildlife and nature cams. There are specific resources for adolescents and college students, parents, caregivers, and people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
Sameera Ahmed, founder of The FYI and a clinical psychologist, suggested finding your own ways to cope and letting your family do the same.
“Recognize everyone’s under a lot of stress right now and everyone has different coping styles,” said Ahmed.
Qabeelah Ittihaad is the Muslim chapter of Al Maghrib Institute. As the pandemic worsened, they came up with a system to reach people struggling emotionally.
Qabeelah Ittihaad made a contact form on their Facebook page to which anyone can add their name. A volunteer from Qabeelah Ittihaad then checks in with everyone on the list and people are free to discuss whatever they want. The check-ins are conducted by trained volunteers, not mental health professionals, but they provide an outlet for people during the pandemic.
Omar Malik, the head of Qabeelah Ittihaad, said, “We don’t claim to be providing mental health therapy. Some people just want to talk to somebody in a confidential way. Our main goal is just to listen to how they’re feeling. That can be very therapeutic.”
The Islamic Center of America, a mosque in Dearborn and the biggest in the country, converted its classes to online platforms that are open to the public. Their website has phone numbers for both Imams, or leaders, of the mosque who can be contacted for Islamic questions or moral support.
Ibrahim Kazerooni, an Imam of ICA, encouraged people to reconnect with God, as he reminded people of God’s promise in the Quran: “Verily, with every hardship is ease.”
To keep spirits high, Kazerooni encouraged staying active. He suggested exercising, reading, gardening and engaging with the community. As for himself, Kazerooni spends a couple hours at his office in ICA just to get out of the house and be productive.
Malik echoed a similar sentiment: “I just have a passion for the cause so keeping busy keeps me happy.”
Malik and Kazerooni also suggested volunteering as a way to stay productive and socially engaged. ICA has a food drive people can help with and Qabeelah Ittihaad has a volunteer base anyone can join.
On volunteering, Malik said, “A lot of people will always start off saying ‘I’m busy.’ We try not to overwhelm people. Our policy is to just let people sign up. At the minimum, you’ll have a good social aspect.”
While higher stress levels are normal right now, if you or a loved one experiences suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. For additional resources, The FYI has a free Suicide Prevention Tool Kit.