Journal of Muslim Mental Health
A Survey of Islamic Clergy & Community Leaders Regarding Muslim Mental Health First Responder Training
by Farhad Syed, Sara Keshavarzi, Naushin Sholapur, Hooman Keshavarzi
There are significant behavioral healthcare disparities for North American Muslims including limited accessibility to mental healthcare services offered with an Islamic context. Thus, American Muslims typically turn to Islamic clergy and religious community settings to address their mental health needs prior to seeking professional care. In order to improve accessibility to Islamically oriented mental health supports, the Khalil Center, an Islamically oriented Muslim mental health center, constructed an 8-hour Muslim Mental Health First Responder Training (FRT) administered across the United States and Canada to 498 community leaders and Islamic clergy. Post-training survey data found that although most of the 128 respondents were involved in settings that necessitated responding to mental health issues in their communities, 70 % had never received any previous mental health training. The overwhelming majority (80 %) of participants emphasized their appreciation of an Islamically integrated approach to the training, reporting that it changed their perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about mental health and 92 % stated they would recommend the training to other colleagues. The majority of participants (61.7 %) in the FRT were teachers, imams/scholars, and counselors. These positions in the community have a high interpersonal impact on the community and can be considered for many people, the first line of defense against mental health-related disorders. This survey illustrated the importance of addressing mental health from a faith-based perspective in the American Muslim community and the inclusion of Islamic clergy and community leaders in order to facilitate a collaborative care approach to closing the gaps of mental health needs for the American Muslim community.