During their involvement with Nueces Mosque and UT Austin’s Muslim Students Association, philosophy senior Mubarrat Choudhury and UT 2016 alumna Rawand Abdelghani noticed some student and community leaders lacked training in dealing with mental health struggles — so they decided to do something about it.
“There’s been a lack of education or experience in how to handle when different things happen,” said Abdelghani, a licensed social worker. “Whether someone comes to you and says ‘I have experienced an assault’… or someone maybe from the homeless community comes (to Nueces Mosque) and is seeking resources, whether it’s social services or mental health counseling and therapy.”
This Saturday, Nueces Mosque will be holding an eight-hour first responders workshop, organized by Choudhury and Abdelghani, in collaboration with the Khalil Center, a psychological and spiritual community wellness center. On Friday a talk about mental health awareness led by a professional from the Khalil Center will take place at 7 p.m. Both events are open to the public, although the workshop on Saturday requires prior registration.
Choudhury said about half the people who have registered are mental health professionals from different religious and cultural backgrounds. He said this workshop will provide therapists who have Muslim clients a better understanding of their clients’ backgrounds.
“I think every single collective group has shared struggles that are easily most empathized by the people of those cultures,” Choudhury said. “But there needs to be more shared learning cross-culturally for us to have better means of doing good to people in general.”
Hanan Hashem, an educational psychology graduate student, said she has been working with Muslim youth for 10 years. She has also conducted research on the discrimination young American Muslims face and its links to depression and anxiety as well as paranoia. Hashem said incidents like the recent vandalism reported by the North Austin Muslim Community Center can make Muslims feel unsafe.
“We don’t know if we’re going to be safe or if our loved ones are going to be okay today or tomorrow,” said Hashem, a counselor in training at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center. “And that causes anxiety and a lot of mental health issues to come up.”
The American Psychiatric Association reported that people from racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive mental health care. Hashem said sometimes an increased stigma amongst minorities can cause barriers to seeking help, and often times the stigma is coming from parents.
“Not all but a lot of the Muslim community is immigrant-based,” Hashem said. “When you talk to parents and say, ‘Oh, I’m feeling sad,’ they’re like, ‘Okay, get over yourself, I had to find a job. I was struggling to survive, I had to make sure you could just go to school and be okay.’ So sometimes I think the issues themselves are minimized because of the struggles our parents went through within immigrant families.”
Choudhury said the workshop will provide attendees with practical information on how to deal with mental health issues.
“I would argue people have been more privy to talking about (mental health), but I don’t think we have done anything about it to be honest,” Choudhury said. “That’s why I like the workshop because it’s resulting in something actionable.”