The Mental Health of Young Muslims

Research by The Children’s Society has found over 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. ‘Before the pandemic, one in eight children and young people aged 5-19 in England had a diagnosable mental health condition1. The pandemic will have posed serious challenges to the mental health of young people and there is also growing evidence that multiple lockdowns have had a much wider impact on children’s mental health that could have long term implications.

In addition, more than 16% of people who had tested positive for coronavirus when they died were from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Young Muslims are more likely to come from BAME backgrounds, live in multigenerational households and have parents or family members working in key worker roles. Many young Muslims come from collective cultures in which their identity is ingrained with their family, yet they have been unable to come together at this distressing time, unable to support sick family members and unable to perform funeral rites and grieve together.

Furthermore, the results from Children’s Mental Health Week show the overwhelming majority of 12 to 16 year olds in England (75%) think it would be helpful if they had a counsellor or another professional at their school to talk to when they’re feeling down and upset. A survey conducted by BCBN on mental health and young British Muslims in 2019 shows that 90% of participants aged 18-30 years old said it was important for mental health services to be culturally/ faith sensitive.

We also know that bullying within schools and other religious hate crimes has doubled since the rise of terrorist attacks. Childline conducted more than 2,500 counselling sessions regarding faith-based bullying over three years to children as young as 9. Considering that the pandemic has worsened mental health, returning to a hostile school environment could have long term implications.

As adults we know the uncertainty and problems that the pandemic has brought. Many of us have been experiencing anxiety around finances, worries about the health of family and strained relationships. Our resilience and patient perseverance have been severely tested. This is all felt more severely by young people, who may not have yet developed the skills and knowledge to be able to cope. Many young people live in crowded conditions, come from low-income backgrounds and are dealing with family conflicts. This means that as schools are re-opening and restrictions easing across the country, young people need support that is trauma informed as well as upskilled staff trained to deal with their wellbeing.