By Yonat Shimron
RALEIGH, N.C. (RNS) — They meet in a conference room on the second floor of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, a therapist and a member of the mosque experiencing emotional distress.
Sitting around a table in the windowless room, they talk for an hour, during which the therapist draws up a list of referrals to outside experts who can offer specialized help for marital conflict, children’s behavioral problems, depression, substance abuse or other issues.
In the United States, many Muslims are reluctant to seek out mental health professionals because of the stigma attached to mental illness or because they fear that a Western-trained therapist will not understand their culture or religion.
Instead, they turn to imams and other community leaders, who often quietly refer them to mental health professionals. But leaders of the Raleigh mosque, which draws thousands of worshippers a week, realized that mental health issues needed to be dealt with in a more professional and organized way and that the requests were inundating its two religious leaders.
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