5 Ways To Help People With Mental Health Issues Without Losing Yourself

At the end of the day, all we can do is to lend others a helping hand from the worldly distress they endure. It is up to them to accept that help or to refuse, but don’t lose hope if they reject it.

At the end of the day, all we can do is to lend others a helping hand from the worldly distress they endure. It is up to them to accept that help or to refuse, but don’t lose hope if they reject it.

Have you loved someone and want the best for them, but you don’t want to lose yourself in the process?

Many mental health communities and advocates are and have always been raising awareness about the detrimental issue, but have we truly given much thought to the people who are trying to help but failed?

To further understand how you can help others without losing yourself, let’s dissect what mental health entails, the root of the problem, and how you help others safely without losing yourself, InshaAllah.

What is mental health in general?

To solve an ever-evolving issue is to first understand what you’re dealing with. Mentalhealth.gov defines mental health as the encapsulation of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being (though we Muslims believe that the fourth element is spiritual well-being).

Having good mental health will affect our thought processes, emotions, and actions positively; and unfortunately vice versa. If you’re not well-endowed with good mental health, it is definitely not the end of the world!

There are many available avenues you can opt for to treat it, which include therapy, lifestyle change, and gratitude practice.

What about Mental Health and Islam?

Mental health in Islam was not the kind of topic you’d expect to discuss among the Muslim community, especially in households with conservative family members who treat mental health as a taboo.

However, more and more Islamic scholars have come forward to shed light on the issue and explain its significance for every Muslim. 

According to Shaykh Ahmed Elazhary in a lecture conducted by SimplyIslam Academy, he said, “I do recognise that many individuals out there who are in pain and suffering, they feel the stigma of depression and psychological illness. Sometimes, they feel ashamed of that; sometimes they don’t know where to go with this as well. Also, sometimes we use the notion of mental illness in the form of a curse”.

Shaykh Ahmed Elazhary further explains that Muslim scholars in the past have looked at this from a medical and psychological perspective, and have given sound advice to others on how to treat those who suffer from mental illnesses. In retrospect, the issue of mental health and Islam is not new, and it should remain that way moving forward.

Due to the de-stigmatisation of mental health, which is unfortunately caused by culture, not religion; Muslims are starting to realise the importance of taking care of their mental health for a better life as a Muslim and a human being overall. 

The Big Question: Why do you sometimes lose yourself when you try to help others?

Sometimes, you feel this surge of heartbreak and despair when you see others in mental and emotional destitute. For some other people, they feel annoyed and irritated when they are confronted by victims of mental illnesses.

Helping others to cope with their stress and emotional turbulence takes a lot of practice and patience. It doesn’t happen overnight, and let’s begin with why you or other people tend to lose themselves in the process.

1. Simply because you love them

Having so much love for someone you know, whether it’s a friend, family member, or relative, is actually harder for you to become an unbiased listener.

You tend to lose yourself much easier because you know and love them for the longest time. Seeing them at their darkest moments hurts you and you may sometimes blame yourself for not being able to help them.

2. Lack of sympathy or empathy

It’s not a bad thing if this is your probable cause, but it is definitely something noteworthy if you want to help your loved ones regain their mental and emotional strength again.

To you, you might feel that the issues they endure are trivial, but it is the complete opposite for them. You might not be able to relate to them, or take their issues lightly, so their vulnerability can sometimes agitate you.

3. You’re already overburdened by your own personal issues

You can’t get all of the eggs in one basket. It might break you. If you are the type of person who would want to cater to everyone’s mental health, be there for them at all times, it is definitely a good thing, Alhamdulillah.

However, there is such a thing as overburdening yourself with your own issues and others as well. Selflessness is great, but don’t let it consume your own mental health.

5 Ways to Help without Losing Yourself

After identifying why you might be losing yourself when you’re trying to help others with mental health issues, let’s explore the five ways on how to help others without actually losing yourself in the process:

1. Remember that it is a Sunnah to help others

Whatever you do in your life, do it for Allah Almighty and His Messenger ﷺ. Even if it means only smiling to your neighbours or giving Salaam, always rectify your intentions for His Sake.

As long as you remember to help others as a means to follow the Sunnah, you will never lose yourself or be disappointed by the reactions of others.

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:

“Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah is engaged in helping the worshipper as long as the worshipper is engaged in helping his brother.” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]

2. Listen attentively without judgement

Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him, was the epitome of a good listener. He would neither interrupt someone during conversation, nor would he judge them.

As a listener, it is essential to let the inflicted express themselves to you to build a form of trust with each other. When you listen attentively and hear with an open heart, you will get a grain of their perspective and how they feel about certain things. 

3. Give yourself some space

If you are truly not in the right mindset and have no emotional capacity to cater to your friend who really needs you, it’s okay to prioritise yourself as long as you make it clear to them and tell them politely.

The key here is to not give them the impression that they’re a burden for you, but instead, make a point that you’re human and you deserve some space to clear your head. Here are a few statements you can work with:

  • “I’m truly sorry that you’re going through this, but I need some time to freshen up so I can be a better listener for you.”
  • “I’m not available to talk right now, but I’ll always be there for you.”
  • “Hey, hang in there. I’ll talk to you as soon as I can. I love you.”
  • “I’d love to listen to you but I’m not available right now. Is there anyone you’d like to talk to for the time being?”

4. It’s ironic but you can always reach out to others

You’d be surprised how you’re not the only one who’s about to lose yourself while helping others heal. If you can’t take it, reach out to your trusted friends and family members.

Tell them how you feel and the support you need to help your friends who are suffering from mental illnesses. It’s always better when you let it all out.

However, it’s important that you keep your friend’s matters private and confidential. You don’t want to expose your friends who trust you, so keep that in mind!

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) as saying:

“The servant (who conceals) the faults of others in this world, Allah would conceal his faults on the Day of Resurrection.” [Sahih Muslim]

5. Accept that you are not in control

Sometimes, you lose yourself over the disappointment that washes over you. When you’ve had high expectations and failed to help them, you begin to guilt yourself into thinking you’re the problem; not them.

Remember, you are not in control of someone else’s happiness and you’re not responsible for making them feel whole again. 

The most important thing is that you’ve done your part as an attentive listener, a good friend, and a person with a humane heart. The fact that you are reading this article right now shows that you care enough about your friends to be there for them without losing yourself.

Don’t be disappointed; don’t have high expectations; accept fate and keep moving forward.

لَهُۥ مُعَقِّبَـٰتٌ مِّنۢ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِۦ يَحْفَظُونَهُۥ مِنْ أَمْرِ ٱللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا۟ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَآ أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوٓءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُۥ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِۦ مِن وَالٍ

“For him [i.e., each one] are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill,3 there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.” [Quran 13:11]

At the end of the day, all we can do is to lend others a helping hand from the worldly distress they endure. It is up to them to accept that help or to refuse, but don’t lose hope if they reject it.

Keep on striving towards goodness in His Servitude, and make every day count, InshaAllah.

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