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Mental Health Research

Current Research

It goes without saying that Muslims, like individuals of other religious and racial backgrounds, experience mental health issues. However, mental health services are often underutilized by American Muslims due to a number of factors including: lack of psycho-education and stigma, lack of knowledge regarding the contributions of Muslims to the field of psychology, attributing mental health issues to supernatural influence (jinns, evil-eye, etc.), or the availability of culturally and/or religiously sensitive mental health providers. The Family and Youth Institute research team aims to increase mental health utilization by addressing these barriers to treatment, as well as introducing new methods of delivering preventative services to promote mental health and well-being.

Culturally Competent Psychological Interventions for Muslims

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Mona Amer, PhD, Sawssan Ahmed, PhD, and Sameera Ahmed, PhD.

Muslims are a heterogeneous group of individuals that are grouped together by their faith. Individuals in need of psychological services often refuse to seek treatment due to the lack of culturally competent professionals. The development of culturally and religiously sensitive mental health services is essential to support the mental well-being of Muslim clients. This team focuses on producing relevant research, highlighting clinical issues, as well as exploring religiously and culturally tailored interventions for professionals counseling Muslims.

Collaborators in this area of study include Germine Awad, PhD (University of Texas at Austin), Linda Reddy, PhD (University of Arizona), Donald Walker, PhD (Regent University), Avidan Milevsky, PhD (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania), Heather Quagliana, PhD (Lee University), Anisah Bagsara, PhD (Claflin University), William Doverspike, PhD (Emory University), Jacqueline Woolley, PhD (University of Texas at Austin), Omar Mahmood, PhD (University of California-San Diego), and Mouna Mana, PhD (Qatar Foundation International).

Mental Health Issues and Treatment Promotion

Muslim Historical Contributions to Psychological Theories and Treatment

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Khalid Elzamzamy, MD

Mental Health ResearchMany individuals, including Muslims, incorrectly believe that psychology and mental health are sciences rooted in only in Western civilizations. In fact, Muslim scholars from other parts of the world have long contributed to the field of psychology and mental health dating back to the 9th century. Increasing awareness and appreciation of the historical contributions of Muslims to the field of mental health may help decrease stigma and resistance by some Muslim clients towards the utilization of psychological or psychiatric services. In addition, researchers and practitioners can incorporate these understandings in treatment plans to provide culturally and religiously sensitive services. Many modern textbooks on the history of medicine, while covering other time periods and contributions, overlook this critical period in the history of the development of psychiatry and mental health. This project explores the contributions of Muslim scholars from the 7th century to the 13th century, often referred to as the golden period of Islamic civilization. The project will explore historically prevalent mental health theories and practices during that period. The project will cover multiple aspects including treatment facilities, methods, theories and concepts, key figures and scholars, and important treatises and references.

This study was conducted in collaboration with Rania Awaad, M.D. (Stanford University).

Use of Social Media Platforms in Mental Health Promotion

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Hena Din, MPH., Sameera Ahmed, PhD, Amal Killawi, MSW and PhD Candidate.

Mental Health ResearchPublic health efforts to reduce stigma and provide communities with education around sensitive health issues are increasingly relying on social media technology. In the last couple of years, social media has grown rapidly to connect individuals globally and spread information and resources to users. The benefits of utilizing social media for mental health promotion have been explored in the general American community but have yet to be researched within the American Muslim community. This study examines how American Muslim organizations utilize social media for mental health promotion for the larger American Muslim community. Recommendations for best practices to effectively integrate social media-based mental health promotion efforts within the American Muslim community will be explored.

Substance Abuse

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sameera Ahmed, PhD

Drug and alcohol use among Muslims is often a taboo subject to broach and as a result, not much is known about rates of use, effects, or how to help people who may have an addiction. This section includes research studies specific to American Muslim experiences.

A Structural Model of Racial Discrimination, Acculturative Stress, and Cultural Resources Among Arab American Adolescents

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sawssan Ahmed, PhD

Despite evidence of the risk for discrimination and acculturative stress that Arab American adolescents may face, the link between socio-cultural adversities and psychological well-being in this population has not been established. This study examined the role of socio-cultural adversities (discrimination and acculturative stress) and cultural resources (ethnic identity, religious support, and religious coping) in terms of their direct impact on psychological distress. Understanding the manner in which socio-cultural adversities and resources are linked to psychological distress can inform the development of culturally appropriate interventions that can effectively mitigate mental health concerns for understudied and vulnerable populations.

Collaborators in this area of study include Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara) Katherine H. Tsai, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles). 

Mental Health for Immigrants and Refugees

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sawssan Ahmed, PhD

“Little is known about the mental health needs of the Arab-American community. However, stressors including exposure to trauma, poverty, and discrimination may be salient in the Arab-American community and contribute to psychological difficulties in this population… Additionally, research with Arab refugee populations in the United States indicates that this community is especially at risk for psychological difficulties including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” (From Health Promotion in Multicultural Populations.)

Collaborators in this area of study include Omar Mahmood, PhD (University of California-San Diego), Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Sheila Modir, PhD Candidate (University of California, Santa Barbara).

List of Research on Mental Health & Well-Being

Peer-Reviewed Journals

Book Chapters


Selected Academic Presentations

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).