The Chapel Hill Tragedy and American Muslims’ Mental Health

News of Chapel Hill has been devastating throughout the day, Muslims glued to their social media sites trying to make sense of this senseless act.  So many knew the victims or those close to them. We related to them as basketball loving, humanitarian giving, promising American students with ambition, drive and an outward practice and pride of the faith. Nonetheless, that love and connectedness is not shared by all, and thus a tragedy occurred.


When acts like this murder hit so close to home, it’s natural to fall in to a state of despair, helplessness, paranoia and depression. But that is not the only murder that is happening: we are slowly killing ourselves by denying the destruction that mental illness is causing in our communities. How does one cope with such acts of hatred, knowing that people do not care if you live or die? This type of stress is not new in the society; any marginalized and oppressed population feel the same pain.  Statistics of drug use, depression, anxiety, suicide, addictions, psychotic episodes in the American Muslim population are rapidly approaching (if it already has not in select areas) the norm of American society.

The Muslim population has fooled itself for a long time thinking that faith and culture alone can withstand any of these mental health issues. We should have known that our body is not made of Faith and Culture; it is influenced by them. Our body is made of flesh, blood, water, tissues, chemicals, etc. Certain things happen to our bodies when tragedies occur, not to mention simple daily stressors. When a body is in pain, like the pain of sadness and depression, it naturally is made to heal itself. Therefore, we cry, clot blood, swell, vomit and much more. We do something beyond instinct that begins healing. Thus we begin to starve ourselves emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually. Starved beings do abnormal things and begin to cope or deal with the starvation in abnormal ways. It is only until the unhealthy behaviors start to consume our lives that we go to seek help, and for many it may be too little too late or some form of damage control.  We do not have to do this to ourselves!

We have taken that away from ourselves as a society. We do not put the same weight of mental health as we do on physical health. This is the silent killer. The instability of people’s mental health goes unnoticed, and then when they do some unstable things, we are surprised and shocked. Hatred is a mental health issue. Lack of value for life is a mental health issue. How many youth had to die in those schools before we took mental health seriously? How many people had to get shot on college campuses before we address our mental health? How many fatal hate crimes do we want to happen to anyone before we take this seriously? Mental Health is not a game anymore: it is life and death, literally. Our mental health takes us seriously, so we had better take it seriously. This begins with acknowledging that there is a problem, addressing it, and beginning the process of healing and some type of therapy, consultation, evaluation, and similar services from professionals.

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There is hope in all this: Muslim Mental Health is a platform to connect those who are hurting with providers who can help.  In light of all this despair and tragedy, beginning tonight at 8pm through next Friday, our Muslim Mental Health network of providers will be making time for any individual who needs to talk, process, and vent some feelings from the fallout of this horrific event.  This can be for parents who worry and fear for their kids, for youth who struggle with wanting to learn more about what they are feeling, or anyone else devastated by the news.  Be proactive. We urge you to take advantage of this service. In times of sorrow the prophets of old would come together with followers and shed tears, hear concerns and be a shoulder to lean on. I pray we can collectively heal together.

Please email Leave your number and we will return your email within two hours with a time that someone will be able to speak with you. Thank you and may God bless you.

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  • About the autor
    Halim Naeem

    Dr. Halim Naeem holds a degree in Counseling Psychology at Western Michigan University. He is a practicing psychotherapist and president of his own private practice, Naeem and Associates in Livonia, MI. He specializes in ADD/ADHD, psychological assessment, and behavioral issues among adolescents and young adults. He works with individuals, couples, and families. He is also the president of Muslim Mental Health (, the leading nationwide experts regarding mental health issues in the Muslim community.

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