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Health, Medicine, Nursing
The Stigma of Mental Health in a Muslim Society Based in the UK (Research Proposal Sample)
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The stigma of mental health in a Muslim society based in the UK
The mental health care has rapidly developed over the years. The significance of mental health has been appreciated and advocated by the mainstream media globally. The number of people who are affected by mental health is rising. In 1990, 416 million people suffered from depression or anxiety worldwide. These figures rose to 615 million in 2013 (World Health Organisation, 2016). Many people continue to avoid seeking medication of mental problems despite the significant improvement of mental health care over the past few decades. The single most important factor that has contributed to this disparity is stigma. Mentally ill individuals are prejudiced against in most societies. The consequence of this stigma is the continued increase in the numbers of mental health patients globally.
Stigma is the situation where a person faces disqualification from being fully accepted by the society. The term should be differentiated from the close but not similar “label avoidance”. In label avoidance, the individual chooses not to look for medical help for their mental conditions to avoid negative or malicious tags. As a result, the patient chooses not to associate with mental health professionals or clinics and avoids diagnosis (Corrigan, 2004). Public stigma, on the other hand, is the discrimination and prejudice from other people. It leads to the blocking of the mental illness patients from accessing educational opportunities, employment, housing and healthcare. The members of the society endorse the stereotypes about people with mental diseases and use these stereotypes to judge them (Jorm, and Griffiths, 2008). The media can be a great platform to enhance or stop the menace of stigmatization. According to Hall (1986), the media has been used in the modern society to enhance the control. The utilization of seductive spectacles and involvement of consumers in the world of information, entertainment and consumption, has enabled the media to influence the thoughts and actions of individuals profoundly.
Mental illness stigma is a universal phenomenon. However, the dimensions, influences, and consequences of the stigma vary considerably across different cultures. The cultures create different impacts to the patient and caregivers depending on the perception of different people. According to Ciftci, Jones, and Corrigan, (2013), six factors moderate the expression of stigma in various circumstances. These factors are the aesthetic qualities, concealability, disruptiveness, origin, course and peril. Concealability is the relative ability of an attribute to be apparent. For example, skin color is a visible attribute and cannot be concealed as easily as mental illness. Concealable stigmas can lead to other consequences beyond basic discrimination. In the instance of medical illness, concealing the condition may prevent its management. According to Beatty and Kirby (2006), the patient may face high levels of social stress in deciding who to disclose such illness and how to hide records about the disease. Additionally, the discrimination based on invisible qualities is difficult to identify and prosecute as compared to that stemming from visible attributes (Stefan, 2000; Corrigan, 2004). The other factors such as peril and course can contribute to negative behaviors among those affected with the stigmas.
The use of the social platforms by the spectators to present their perceived morality is entirely based on the structure and programming that the media has created (Crary, 2001). The South Asian Muslim society has been attributed to having the highest stigmatization levels against mental illnesses as a result of perceived morality. The South Asian Muslims in the United Kingdom are a small fraction of the total universal Muslim population. Globally, there are estimated to be more than 1.6 billion people who practice Islam (approximately 23% of the universal population). A high number of these Muslims live in Asian-Pacific countries (62%) while the others are distributed throughout the world. The North- African and the Middle East countries have 20% of the Muslim population with 15% being in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The North American countries (Canada and the United States) have less than one percent of the global Muslim populations. Europe has only a mere 3% of the population making them minorities in the continent (Ciftci, Jones, and Corrigan, 2013). However, despite the colossal universal population of Muslims with similar fundamental beliefs, their practices vary from place to place.
According to Baudrillard (1983), the modern society has replaced reality with symbols. For example, in the South Asian Muslim society, the Hijab is a sign of purity. The overall Islam belief is that illnesses and religion should not be separated. Physical illnesses are tests from Allah (the Arab name for God). They believe that God brought diseases as punishments and He alone is the ultimate doctor. He is the ultimate determinant of who gets sick and who gets healed. The belief in destiny (Kader) is extremely strong (Al-Krenawi, 2005). Therefore, physical illnesses are seen to be caused by lack of faith, disconnection from God or lack of regular prayer. The Imams, who are God’s indirect agents, are tasked with facilitating the healing process by helping the patients rediscover their connection with Allah. These Imams also play a critical role in the community’s attitudes towards various diseases (Abu-Ras, Gheith, and Cournos, 2008).
Mental illnesses, due to lack of physical manifestations, become challenging for the Muslim leaders to discriminate them from religious myths. The broad nature of mental illnesses means that they are treated differently by the community. For example, anxiety and depression are considered as deficits in faith or prayers. On the other hand, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are more severe forms. As a result, the patients who show the symptoms of these diseases are usually considered to be possessed by evils spirits or demons (Jinn). Therefore, mental illnesses are treated with extreme negative perceptions and non-medical approaches. It becomes a classical Foucault (1977) scenario of using discipline and punishment to maintain religious power.
The non-medical and negative approaches of mental illnesses create a huge challenge for patients with the condition. According to Ciftci, Jones, and Corrigan (2013), the mental illness patients in the Muslim communities often face great discrimination and prejudice from the public. They are often treated differently in issues like business relationships, socialization, and marriages. It creates increased stigmatization within the sufferers. The cultural practices of the Muslim communities also place female patients suffering from mental illnesses in a worse position regarding stigmatization. However, the biggest cause of the stigma is the lack of understanding of the disease or simple ignorance. It makes it more challenging for the patients, who hide their conditions instead of looking for support. The lack of proper medical management may cause the patients to engage in violence acts or suicidal behaviors. However, to completely understand the full impact of the Menace, a researcher needs to approach the problem using the Louis Theroux approach. The approach can be used to follow the participants and document their daily activities and infer conclusions.
Rationale of Study
Public and governmental agencies have increasingly recognized the significance of mental health since the turn of the millennium. The World Health Organization (2014) devised a comprehensive and detailed mental health care plan. In this 2013 plan, the organization defined the goals and objectives that could promote mental health care and promote the quality of life for all humans. The Muslim community, like all other societies, has its fair share of mental illness problems (Cinnirella and Loewenthal, 1999). However, the difference with the other communities is the strong presence of misinterpretation and stigma of the condition.
The interpretations of mental illnesses range from trials by God, acts of punishment to demonic possessions. As a minority group in the UK that is faced with numerous other challenges, it is imperative to determine the extent of this stigma when compared to the surrounding communities. The research also aims to open a doorway for future studies in this rapidly expanding field and shall raise new questions to be explored. The answers that will be generated by this study will also enrich the current scanty literature on stigma in mental health in South Asian Muslim societies. Creating a documentary on the issue can help highlight important factors that need to be addressed to reduce the stigmatization of mental illnesses.
Limitations of the Study
The primary challenge of the study is the limited literature on mental health in South Asian Muslim society based in the UK. According to Sameera Ahmed (2012), the Muslim society demands a lot of respect for women, local customs, cultures and influences of personalities. As a result, many authors shy away from tackling the sensitive topic of stigma, which may portray the religion in a bad light. Therefore, most Muslim scholars avoid addressing sensitive topics such as Islam culture, mental health, and religion.
Research question, project aim and objectives
The study on the stigma of mental health in a South Asian Muslim society based in the UK shall be guided on the following questions:
1 What is the understanding of the mental health concepts in a South Asian Muslim society based in the United Kingdom?
2 How can the stigma associated with mental illnesses within the South Asian Muslim society be addressed?
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