Working in partnership with Suffolk Mind, the pilot aims to spread good practice and knowledge to better engage with local Muslim groups and meet their emotional needs in a culturally appropriate way. This is mainly done through the development and promotion of a booklet called The Qur’an & Emotional Health: An Introduction, coproduced during a year-long journey working with Islamic scholars, psychologists, Imams and practicing Muslims.
The first phase of the project ended in March 2014 with a public event in Rochdale to launch the latest of eight bespoke local versions of the booklet The Qur’an & Emotional Health: An Introduction produced in the previous 12 months. The event also opened phase two of this project aimed at making the resource available nationally and deliver a programme of support for health and social care professionals seeking a better understanding of how to work with people from Muslim communities.
During phase one we engaged with Muslim communities across England and Wales and built capacity of mental health services at local level. Nine local minds have been involved in this period:
- Bedfordshire and Luton Mind
- City and Hackney Mind
- Dudley Mind
- Mind in Bradford
- Newport Mind
- Rochdale & District Mind
- Solent Mind
- Suffolk Mind (project partner, lead deliverer)
- York Mind
Their staff were trained and supported to deliver engagement events in their local communities. A total of 303 people have been engaged in the process and had a chance to express their opinion on the booklet.
Feedback from local Muslim groups has been overwhelmingly positive, which makes us confident about the choice of scaling up the pilot by moving to phase two, focusing on developing a national version of booklet The Qur’an & Emotional Health: An Introduction booklet. This national version will be promoted widely, together with a training package that will help health and social care professionals in engaging with faith communities (Muslims in particular) and use the booklet to support their emotional health and wellbeing.
Why did you decide to engage people in this way?
Most of the engagement activities took the form of public events because there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what mental health is amongst Muslim communities, therefore it was important to tackle this from a community perspective. Individuals would have struggled coming forward on their own because of the fear of being judged by the rest of the community. Holding public community discussions about mental health proved to be very beneficial to engage in a positive way.
How has engaging people with lived experience benefitted your work?
Engagement has been at the heart of the project from the very beginning, including the development of the content of the booklet, which was co-produced with local Muslim people. Engaging with people has allowed the project to genuinely meet the needs of this community; people felt it was an organic process they were truly part of. They felt empowered and are now enthusiastic about the results achieved together.
What have you learnt? Are there things you would do differently next time? Why?
It is really important that people we engage with feel genuinely part of the whole process. There was a high risk that people would have felt ‘used’ by a big charity like Mind so it was really important for us to make it clear that we were not looking for visibility or publicity but we were there with the only purpose of supporting them. This sense of ownership had to take prevalence on things like Mind brand, up to the point that the booklet does not look like a normal Mind publication; if it did Muslim communities would not have engaged with it.
The downside was that this disconnect with our ‘normal’ way of doing things made it harder for other Mind departments to support this project (in particular with regards to using it in our external relations).
If we want to effectively meet the needs of marginalised and multiply-discriminated groups we must be able to adapt to a way of engaging and operating that is culturally competent and inclusive (e.g. most of the time it will not be appropriate to ask for individual stories from the project as people will not feel comfortable coming forward. Whereas being able to talk about the project in general terms would encourage other people from the same group to connect with it).
How did the engagement activity benefit those involved?
Facilitating public discussions about emotional wellbeing in Muslim communities really helped people from the community to develop an understanding of what mental health is and how to access support. A very important role in the engagement process was played by Imams who gave reassurance that mental health has nothing to do with possession (Jinn) and that it is important for people to talk about it.
What support did you offer?
People were offered the chance to engage in a facilitated discussion about mental health, to meet local Mind staff members, obtain information about services available in their area and engage in follow up activities (e.g. workshops).
What tips do you have for other Mind staff?
- don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
- challenge your assumptions: always ask and be ready to listen to others
- our ultimate goal is not to champion Mind’s brand but to effectively support people who need it: this means we need to be flexible, culturally competent and adapt to the context
- work from within the community’s model of reality, don’t try to impose yours!
- don’t be scared to get it wrong: if you establish a positive relation and trust, people you engage with will be helpful and supportive as they’ll know you are there for their benefit
- be aware of expectations: be clear about what you offer and agree on common objectives
With thanks to Alex Storer – Equalities Improvement Manager