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Bradford
Thursday, May 30, 2024

“I don’t believe I have a jinn inside me, but older people might believe in that kind of thing”

A mum from Barkerend has spoken openly about accessing medical help for her mental illness bypassing a Ruqyah from a peer or an imam.

A thirty-three-year-old mum has spoken out about her mental health issues and why she encourages others to do the same.

Safeena Khan, from Barkerend, has spoken candidly about accessing medical help for her mental illnesses.

Ms Khan has suffered from depression and anxiety for a few years now but only accessed help last December after it had “built up over the years”. She has now been diagnosed with mixed anxiety-depressive disorder (MDD).

Ms Khan said: “I suffer from mental health issues. It got bad last December, and I ended up in Airedale Hospital on Heather ward. It took a lot of time and energy to get to where I am now.

Ms Khan has spoken out about accessing treatment for her mental health issues.

“I’ve got a mental health nurse and a psychiatrist, but you really have to press on about getting this type of help because sometimes it is not there or available.”

Ms Khan’s mother, Kaneez Akhtar, tragically lost her life at the age of 58 in Myra Shay Park due to ongoing mental health issues.

Some people believe that mental, and physical illness, is caused by Jinn or the evil eye and can be fixed through prayer. For people of faith, prayer can assist in recovery, but should not be a replacement for science-based medical help and therapy.

In Islamic mythology, Jinn’s are supernatural creatures made of smokeless fire. Many cultures across Asia and the Mediterranean believe in the concept of an evil eye and that an evil eye will cause misfortune or misery. In Hinduism, the evil eye is known as Kudrishti or Karikannu.

Historically, they are portrayed as menacing creatures that can harm humans or drive them mad.

Some imams across the UK are practising exorcisms or Ruqyah (spiritual healing) which often involves the transaction of money and being physically hit when praying.

People seek out a Ruqyah, instead of going to a GP or the hospital, as they believe that it will cure black magic, voodoo, or a curse put on them by the evil eye.

A lot of the time, this type of “healing” is done in the backstreets but one imam, Imam Ayoub Sayed, from Lancashire filmed himself performing a Ruqyah to a woman in 2018. The video is distressing with the imam hitting the woman over the head with a wooden table.

Medieval theologian and writer, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya is often cited for his belief in Ruqyah. He wrote: ‘The is the complete healing for all mental, spiritual and physical diseases; all the diseases of this world and the hereafter.

Safeena Khan believes accessed help through the First Response team last year.

“But not everyone is guided to use it for the purpose of healing. If the sick person uses the Qur’an for healing in the proper way and applies it to his disease with sincerity, faith, complete acceptance, and firm conviction, fulfilling all its conditions, then no disease can resist it.”

However, there is no evidence to suggest that prayers cure illnesses and that logically, more devout people are protected from getting ill.

Ms Khan believes in jinn, but she doesn’t think that it was the cause of her or her mum’s mental health problems. The exact cause of mental illnesses is unknown, but researchers suggest that it is a combination of factors including stress, genetics, nutrition, and environmental influences.

“Some people from the older generation may believe that Jinn is the cause of mental illnesses, but I don’t”, Ms Khan said.

She added: “As someone who went to mainstream school here in England, I don’t believe that I have a Jinn inside me, but the older generation might. I might think differently if I grew up and lived in Pakistan fifty years ago.

“People go to imams for Ruqyah but realistically, what can they do? They would say to pray, which I do now.

“I find reciting the Qur’an does relax and calm me down, but it doesn’t cure my mental health problems, however, a combination of faith and prescribed medication does improve my mental health.

“I think the older generation needs to know that mental illnesses are real, and you can get help with it from doctors instead of imams.”

Ms Khan urges people to seek help if they need it.

Instead of seeking out a Ruqyah, the first point of call for Ms Khan last year was Bradford’s First Response, a 24-hour crisis service for people of all ages living in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale, or Craven experiencing a mental health crisis.

The mum-of-two said: “If you are struggling you should contact the First Response team.

“I had so many demons and monsters in my head that I couldn’t get out. I had the fear of not knowing how to control my worries and things like that.

“There is no shame in getting help with mental health. I think people, especially from the Asian community, need to speak up about it.

“It is okay to be sad, it is okay to be emotional, it is okay to be upset, you just need to let it out and not hold it in. I think most people don’t want to share.”

A report from charity Time to Change in 2010 found that mental health is rarely discussed within the South Asian community because of the risk it poses to a family’s reputation or status. For young people, especially women, it can be an obstacle to marriage.

Talking about the importance of accessing help, Ms Khan said: “It is like a broken arm, you’d go to the doctors to get it fixed, wouldn’t you? It is the same. Just because you can’t see the mental illness, it doesn’t mean that it is not real.

“It is an invisible illness that you can’t see. I know over lockdown people have suffered so much with it. I think that is why I wanted to speak out, to tell people that there is help out there and to go and get; if it is medication or therapy, everyone is different.”

Ms Khan decided to make the first step in addressing her problems after she realised that she would “spiral into a black hole and not get out” if she didn’t. She added: “There is always a way of dealing with your problems.

Ms Khan likes to clean as one way of coping with her mental health. Image: Marco Verch Professional Photographer.

“I thought my fears were real, but they were all in my head. They made me feel scared and vulnerable, but I worked through them.

“I wrote my fears down on a piece of paper and ticked them off one by one. I am the type of person who needs to get everything done all at once, but it gets so overwhelming.

“It was silly things like worrying about paying for the kid’s food or putting fuel in the car or sorting out the car insurance. All these things I can do, but I excessively worry about them, and I didn’t want to feel like that anymore.

“I tried to focus on my kids and my family. I would help my mum out a lot, so I just tried to keep busy.”

One of the ways Ms Khan keeps busy is through cleaning. “There is so much cleaning you can do”, she said.

“My house is spotless but now I’m trying to get support for work. It is the one thing I struggle with. I want to get a job and sustain it.

“I’m an overthinker and worry that ‘I can’t do this job’ but I can, I just need a positive attitude and take it day by day or hour by hour. Even getting a part-time job will get me out of the house and meet new people which will be good for my mental health.

“I want a job where I can support people, either in retail or education. I think I can put a lot in and help students with mental health issues. I just want to get back into work and have a routine, and it is a bonus when you get paid for it as well.

It is important to Ms Khan that the older generation, like her mum, also access help and services when they need it. She said: “I want the older generation, like my mum’s, to reach out. Just because some of them don’t speak English, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t help there for them, there is always translators.

“Also with the older generation, I think what they fear the most is the hospital. My mum already knew what it was like in the hospital, and she didn’t want it. You can get treatment at home, and you can get better.

“Hospital is the last resort. I want to push people to get help at home.”

Ms Khan is also supported by her father and her siblings. She said: “My dad is absolutely brilliant.

“My dad worked is really hard working. He works in the kitchen of a popular restaurant on Leeds Road and is a brilliant cook, he cooked for my mum every day. If I feel a bit down, I pop round to his to say hello and have a cup of tea.

“My siblings and I get along really well. There are four of us, three girls and then my brother who is the youngest. If any of us are sad or in a low mood, then we will help each other out.”

Ms Khan also urges people to “be considerate of others”. She said: “everyone knows how my mum passed away and some people don’t have a filter. It has only been six months; we are still grieving.

“People say ‘time is a good healer’ but it is not. I am still dealing with grieving for my mum. When people say inconsiderate comments regarding how my mum passed away, I find it upsetting. People will just ask upfront, and I say ‘nobody could have known anything’ so I ask people to be considerate and not to make assumptions.

“My goal now is to help other people who are going through similar situations.”

Where to get help?

If you need help or just someone to talk to, you can contact these organisations:

First Response: It is open 24/7 and for anyone living in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale or Craven experiencing a mental health crisis. You can call 0800 952 1181.

Samaritans: it is for anyone experiencing mental health issues, not just in a crisis and is open 24/7. You can call 116 123.

Roshni Ghar: Roshni Ghar provides support to South Asian women in Keighley but delivers culturally sensitive counselling to South Asian women and girls across Bradford District. You can self-refer yourself here: https://data.roshnighar.org.uk/self-referral-form

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