Imams offered free mental health training in bid to smash stigma

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BRADFORD: A Bradford-based mental health organisation is to provide free training for Imams in a bid to help them advise those in need – with the addition of an Islamic perspective. The course will be held by Sharing Voices Bradford (SVB), which supports and works with minority communities in the city, the Asian Image has reported.

The aim of the training is to look at the specific mental health needs of the Muslim community and how to best respond to those needs.

An SVB spokesperson said: “Imams play a pivotal role in the religious and spiritual growth and often take on additional roles within the Muslim community, they perform marriages, mediate between disputes and are regularly the first people they go to for advice and guidance.

“Many Imams have felt ill-equipped to give advice on mental health problems that they were frequently approached with.”

Because of this, SVB decided to pilot a half-day mental health training programme which would balance the professional and spiritual perspective, as well as engage and empower Imams in their roles within the community.

“SVB recognises that the Muslim community have particular complex experiences of stigma and misunderstanding around both their spiritual identity and mental health,” the spokesperson said.

“Many Muslims are reluctant to seek out mental health professionals because of the stigma attached to mental illness or because they fear that a Western-trained therapist will not understand their culture or religion. This training is sought to understand how both SVB and mental health services could best engage with and support the Muslim community to identify mental health problems and access appropriate services.

“In many cultures mental illness is not easily accepted and the stigma associated with it is a barrier to some people when seeking advice and treatment. In Bradford and Airedale we aim to promote mental health awareness training in mosques and encourage Imams to attend. By using this training, Imams can help the community and help to prevent mental health problems arising or, when they do occur, promote early intervention and clear pathways for improving access to services for the Muslim community to prevent illnesses from getting worse.”

The training will take place at Sharing Voices Bradford, 10 Mornington Villas, Manningham, on Saturday, January 26 from10am until 2pm.It will be delivered by a qualified Muslim psychologist. Spaces are limited – those interested in taking part in the course are asked to get in touch at info@sharingvoices.org.uk or via 01274 731166.