Most of us are having some sort of emotional response to this pandemic. Thankfully, most of these responses are considered normal, writes DR MUHAMMAD FAADIEL WILLIAMS
IN the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, The Unimaginably Merciful. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon you. If you are reading this article then you are alive, Alhamdulillah. When one reflects on this pandemic, it reminds me of that famous Charles Dickens quote: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’
I invite you to deeply reflect upon what good this pandemic has brought humanity. For the purposes of this article however, I wish to briefly touch on some of the more difficult aspects of this pandemic as it relates to mental health.
I will focus on some general advice that I have compiled from my varied readings and own (limited) insights as a psychiatrist, which I pray will be of benefit to you as the reader. For the sake of brevity, I shall omit any references or any detailed discussion.
We have seen death and despair on an unprecedented scale in our local community. At the time of writing this, we had lost 12 771 people to COVID in the Western Cape alone. There have been all kinds of stressors that have challenged the community during this pandemic. We have had to endure Level 5 (and other level) lockdowns, working and learning from home, massive financial losses, and even social and spiritual restrictions.
We have experienced a massive increase in psychiatric and related illnesses as a direct and indirect result of the COVID-19 virus. Some national helplines have seen a more than doubling of people calling in struggling with mental health illnesses. These illnesses vary from depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder and closely related phenomena, such as gender-based violence. For some Muslims these illnesses are still very taboo and highly stigmatising.
Most of us are having some sort of emotional response to this pandemic. Thankfully, most of these responses are considered normal. If, however, these emotions are impacting our functioning (we are not working/ learning/ interacting as we used to) or we are feeling overwhelmed (it feels too much to cope with) then we should please seek professional help. Help is available at your local government clinic, general practitioner, psychiatrist or other mental health care practitioner.
We need to talk and educate ourselves about mental wellness/ illness. In this way, we will be able to effectively manage mental illness and largely prevent suicides and other negative outcomes, Inshaa Allah. Here are some suggestions for adults to aid us in our coping with this pandemic, Inshaa Allah:
- Spiritualise. Speak, ask and get comfort from Allah.
- Consciously and actively take a break from all the death and despair. For example, switch off your phone, if possible, and check it at scheduled times only.
- Be mindful of what you say around your children.
- Talk about trivial things and make jokes with like-minded people (who are not perhaps grieving or the like).
- Keep busy; perhaps with a hobby, getting fit, doing home improvements, distracting yourselves in a leisurely/ constructive manner, if possible. How about a lovely, fit body to enjoy post pandemic?
- Plan things for the future in your conversations and in your mind, and have hope that Allah/ God will grant it to you.
- Look, in your mind’s eye, beyond the pandemic.
- Reflect on how you may improve your life, and how you may better what you bring to humanity and the world in future.
- Actively think about all the things you are/ should be grateful for.
- Focus on your situation and how more fortunate you are than many others.
- Think about your loved ones and your relationships, and how you may improve them.
- Actively remember the good times in your life. Dwell on them. Close your eyes and go to them. Let those feelings flood you if necessary. Be thankful. Be thankful.
- Remember the hard times in your life and how you made it through them. There is always ease with difficulty. Allah/ God tells us so in the Quran and The Bible.
- Picture yourself telling future generations about how you lived through this pandemic.
- Hold onto hope.
- Exercise patience.
- Don’t hesitate, vaccinate.
- Of all the things you can be, be kind.
- Remember to pray. Remember to pray. Remember to pray.
To those who don’t believe in Allah/ God, we wish all the very best to you, too. We don’t discriminate. We are one humanity. We are all in this together.
Yes, a few of us won’t make it through this, which is sad but the large majority of us will, bi ithnillaah. Keep on keeping on.
- Dr Muhammad Faadiel Williams is a senior psychiatrist and lecturer at Serenity Clinic. He is also the founder of Palestinian Mental Health Network South Africa. This article was provided by the Islamic Medical Association (Western Cape).