Mental Health of Muslim College Students: Perceptions, Stigmas, and Support Systems

Yusra Ahmed and Dr. Fahad Khan


Mental health awareness has gained increasing importance over the last decade, with many schools in the United States offering resources to help students manage mental health issues. College students, including young Muslims, are particularly susceptible to mental health problems. A study showed that 53% of students experience anxiety, 49% deal with depression, and 48% face stress (Gilani, 2023). Despite the availability of resources, Muslim students are less likely to seek help due to stigmatization and cultural pressures. This study aims to explore the mental health knowledge and attitudes of Muslim college students in the Chicagoland area, focusing on the role of parental influence.


This study utilized a survey design to gather data from 40 Muslim college students in the Chicagoland area who participated in a program at Khalil Center on mental health. The survey included questions about students' mental health knowledge, attitudes, and parental influence. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to identify common themes and trends.


result 1

Do you feel that you take mental health seriously?

Most students (72.5%) feel that they take their mental health seriously. This is perhaps due to the increased awareness and importance of taking care of mental health in recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

result 2

Do you feel like there is a work-life or school-life balance in your life?

A majority of students felt neutral (17.5%) or disagreed (37.5%) about having a school-life or work-life balance. Students may have a hard time balancing their responsibilities from work or school with personal or family time.

result 3

Do you feel organized in your life?

Half of the students felt neutral about being organized with 17.5% disagreeing with feeling organized. This suggests struggles adjusting to university life and learning to navigate a new experience.

result 4 1715967753

Do you feel that your parents support your mental health?

Altogether, 77.5% of the students felt neutral or disagreed that their parents support their mental health. This is a significant concern since family can be a good source of support for students struggling during their academic years. This concern can be due to poor communication or lack of understanding between parents and their children and cultural stigmas surrounding mental health which often makes it a taboo subject in immigrant households.

result 5

Do you feel that you and your parents have a health relationship?

Most students felt neutral (42.5%) or disagreed (17.5%) that they had a healthy relationship with their parents. 

result 6

Would you say you have good stress management skills?

75% of the respondents felt neutral or disagreed that they have good stress management skills. Students may face an overwhelming amount of stress in school and are not always equipped with the best methods to handle that stress. 

result 7

Do you feel that praying helps with your stress and anxiety?

A significant majority of students (82.5%) agreed that praying helps to relieve anxiety and stress. This shows that a majority of our sample population may have higher levels of religious coping. 

result 8

Do you feel spiritually connected?

Most students (60%) felt that they were spiritually connected. This may indicate that religion and spirituality are important and a part of their identity. 

result 9

Do you feel that you understand the difference between health and unhealthy stress?

Half of the respondents agreed that they understood the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress. Some (30%) disagreed indicating that they might understand how certain practices or situations give them unhealthy stress but may not be able to identify it as such. 


Have you utilized any mental health resources offered by your university?

A vast majority (77.5%) of students have not used mental health resources offered by their universities. They may not even know of the resources that are available to them. Moreover, they could also feel intimidated to reach out and access such resources. 


The findings reveal significant challenges in mental health management among Muslim college students, exacerbated by cultural stigmas and lack of parental support. Despite high religiosity, which provides some coping mechanisms, there is a critical need for increased awareness and utilization of mental health resources. Future research should explore intervention strategies tailored to this demographic and investigate the impact of cultural competence training for mental health professionals.

Recommendations for Students 

From the responses above, we observe that although students recognize the importance of mental health, they struggle with a work-life balance and managing stress. Some practices that can help in managing stress from school or work include:

  • Exercise – can help boost energy and is proven to improve mental health. 

  • Writing and journaling – can help with processing your thoughts and feelings of the day

  • Prayer and meditation – can help to bring peace of mind and clear your mind from constant worries  

  • Talking to loved ones or professionals – stay connected with people who care about your well-being and can help you through difficult situations 

  • Utilize the mental health resources at your university – universities often offer free resources for students struggling with their mental health or school life by providing counseling, group therapy, individual therapy, peer support groups, and mindfulness programs. Taking advantage of these resources may benefit students who need an outlet to do so. 

Recommendations for Parents 

Increasing mental health awareness among parents and having a healthy dialogue about the attitudes towards mental health conditions and their treatment among Muslim families will be helpful in the long run. Some practices parents can use to support their children as they transition into college or school are:

  • Maintain regular communication with your children - A lot of students end up moving away from home whether it is for a college or a job and they might end up feeling lonely and isolated.

  • Validate their concerns and provide emotional support - If your child is coming to you and they’re expressing concerns or negative emotions about what they’re going through, it’s important to understand that these emotions deserve time and attention. You can help your child navigate these emotions by validating their concerns.

  • Encourage and model healthy habits such as eating well, sleeping well, and exercising - taking care of ourselves physically also plays a huge role in mental health.

  • Actively listen to their experiences – remain supportive and encouraging 


Flannery, M. E. (2023, March 29). The Mental Health Crisis on college campuses. NEA. https://www.nea.org/nea-today/all-news-articles/mental-health-crisis-college-campuses

Gilani, S. (2023, March 1). The unacknowledged crisis in Muslim Students’ Mental Health. Schools Week. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/mental-health-muslim-students-need-our-attention/

 Medvec, S. (2022, November 8). 6 signs that a student is struggling with a mental illness. The Summit Counseling Center. https://summitcounseling.org/6-signs-that-a-student-is-struggling-with-a-mental-illness/

 NHS. (2023, March 14). Student Stress. NHS choices. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/children-and-young-adults/help-for-teenagers-young-adults-and-students/student-stress-self-help-tips/ 

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