The Abrahamic intellectual heritage (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) recognized mental health and played an active role in cultivating mental well-being.
Historical faith-based mental health philosophy and practice are rich and well documented. This author explores the intellectual practice of the past with the mental health challenges of the present and the future.
“Indeed, the eyes shed tears and the heart feels sorrow, which is human nature. Yet we only say what is honorable and noble to our Lord” (Muhammad, PBUH).
The tradition of recognizing and prioritizing mental well-being has continued in the work of scholars who have drawn inspiration from prophetic accounts, science, and philosophy.
For example, regardless of faith, medieval scholars gathered in Baghdad collaborated to preserve and produce knowledge related to the human psyche. Additionally, Al-Kindī (died 873) was commissioned by the ʿAbbāsid caliphs to oversee the translation of Greek works into Arabic in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Al-Kindi constructed theories on the abrogation of punishments by attempting to reconcile Greek and Abrahamic philosophy.
Beyond the works of individual scholars, the legacy of faith prioritizing mental well-being and putting it into practice can also be seen in their hospital systems. One of the hallmarks of these hospitals was the dedication of a psychiatric ward within the hospital, which emerged in the regions of southeastern Europe and upper northern Africa around 500 years ago. before other places in the world (Michael W. Dols, Majnūn: “The Madman in the Medieval Islamic World”, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).
The earliest evidence of institutional psychiatric care is a report that documents the care of psychiatric patients at al-Fustat Hospital founded in Cairo in 872 or 873 (Dols, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1992).
The architects of these healing institutions took air quality and proximity to natural water sources into consideration when choosing a location. They designed water drainage systems to maintain health and they monitored the properties of the air. For example, at Mansuri Hospital in Cairo, giant ventilators called pankas were used to circulate air. The floors were covered with pomegranate branches and makeshift air fresheners.
Understanding that humans are complex and sensitive beings, doctors have used several approaches to wellness. Medicine notwithstanding, doctors have used alternative holistic treatments. These treatments included auditory therapy (using scriptural recitation, harmonious tones, and nature sounds such as moving water or birdsong), regular bathing, dietary restrictions, immersion in nature, and Moreover.
The purpose of this article was to provide a brief historical observation on mental health and the community’s dedication to health care. Mental health is a major issue today. The dilemma demands a common response. No public entity alone has the answer. Collaboration and mutual understanding will be the most influential factors in making the difference.
To end this article, here is a brief statistical summary on mental health documented by the National Center for Health Statistics. It articulates a single subsection of the population:
According to the new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% said they constantly felt sad or desperate over the past year. The new analyzes also outline some of the severe challenges faced by young people during the pandemic:
More than half (55%) said they had experienced emotional abuse from a parent or other adult at home, including swearing, insulting or putting the student down. Additionally, 11% experienced physical violence from a parent or other adult at home, including hitting, hitting, kicking or physically hurting the student. More than a quarter (29%) said a parent or other adult in their home had lost their job.
Yosof Wanly holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in Islamic studies from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Additionally, he holds a Master of Science in Storytelling from al-Madina International University and a Bachelor of Public Health from Oregon State University.