Stoicism and the belief that faith should be able to overcome mental illness is stopping men from getting the help they need. This has to change
The Independent Voices
There needs to be culturally competent mental health provision that caters to BAME experiences ( Jean-Sebastien Evrard/ Getty )
It’s National Men’s Health Week and men’s health – physical and mental – is in a state of crisis in Britain. Male obesity levels are rising, prostate cancer incidences are rising and so are eating disorders like anorexia which, until recently, were very uncommon. With suicide being the leading cause of death of young men under 35, the mental health trends are perhaps the most alarming. Globally, depression has overtaken back pain as the number one cause of disability, as the illness has surged amongst men of all backgrounds.
But my years on the frontline of the NHS during emergencies like Grenfell, as well as volunteering with refugees and internally displaced people in Calais, Lesvos and Iraq have opened my eyes as to how mental illness affects Muslim men, like myself, in slightly different ways.
It’s the culture, you see. We’ve inherited sometimes noble, often harmful ideals of traditional masculinity, of the importance of stoicism, of being seen as the unbreakable, impenetrable provider without weakness.
Other downright dangerous traditional views also persist. Blame is often placed on the person who is depressed, and their faith questioned as if it is an issue of belief. Mental illness is often seen as a weakness.