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Mental Health Matters

Writer: Firhaana Bulbulia



“When you recognize loss and own the loss, then you begin to live” This was the advice shared by grief counsellor- Janelle Chase-Mayers, during BAML’s most recent seminar. The seminar titled “Mental Health and You- Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls” was the second part to BAML’s “M-Series Lectures and Seminars” which focuses on pertinent issues facing women and girls within the Muslim community in Barbados. Taking place at the Usain Bolt Complex on Sunday, 29th September 2019, this edition to the M Series focused on grief management, handling anxiety and tackling depression and featured notable speakers such as Janelle Chase-Mayers, Yasmin Kothdiwala and Ferozah Kothdiwala. Beginning with an introduction to counselling, Teacher and Counselor Ferozah Kothdiwala- also, Secretary of the BAML – broke the taboos around seeking counselling in her presentation titled “Why counselling?” “Counselling is usually the first and best weapon we have against psychological challenges such as depression, anxiety and grief. Counselling is a genuinely unique source of support”. She went on to say that counselling isn’t just for mental health issues, but can be beneficial to other aspects of life such as relationships and behavioural challenges. The over 40 participants then took part in smaller group sessions led by Mental Health Consultant Janelle Chase-Mayers and Psychologist Yasmin Kothdiwala. Focusing on the topic “Coping with Grief and Loss”, Janelle Chase-Mayers  took participants through a journey, drawing on her own experience of losing her husband suddenly- four weeks after the birth of her son. She explained that we need to re-think how we perceive mental health and that grief is not something we should handle silently on our own. She further stated that “grief is not synonymous with death and that loss goes beyond just the death of a loss one, but also coping with loss dreams and opportunities. Experiences of grief are something that links every one of us, as we have all faced experiences of lost.” During her break-out session, psychologist Yasmin Kothdiwala, first walked participants through the differences between normal anxiety and anxiety disorders, focusing on anxiety in adults and children and providing advice on how to help loved ones face anxiety. She explained that parenting style can have a big effect on children, saying that children recognize anxiety in parents and this worry can transfer onto children- affecting them in different ways. She further encouraged persons that if anxiety was affecting their everyday routine and ability to do daily tasks that professional help should be sought. One participant, Iman Wilson 18 year old BCC student , welcomed this session, indicating it was “informative”. “It helped me to get a clearer picture on what anxiety really is and ways on how to deal with it. Janelle’s sessions was useful because it helped me to open up and speak about grief and helped me to understand that we are not the only person facing it.” Whilst mother of three, Zulekha, was moved by the session on grief. She shared“It was hard after my father died, you do want to talk about it; sessions like these are good, as you begin to realise, it’s not just you going through these things, its everyone around us, it’s a normal part of life and we can learn how to approach other people about what we are going through. I believe next session everyone should urge a friend to attend.” BAML has designed the M-Series to tackle often taboo and “unspoken” issues facing Muslimahs, with the first seminar taking place in March 2019 -focusing on Menstruation and Menopause and featuring speakers from the Barbados Association of Endometriosis and PCOS, Dr. Nicole Durham, Monique Springer and religious teacher Zakirah Apa Bhana. In her opening statement at Sunday’s seminar, President Sakina Bakharia emphasized that “for years, we have seemed to keep these conversations hidden. We are hesitant to be open about our struggles with spirituality and mental health for fear of ridicule and judgement. However, this stops now.”

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Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies

BAML promotes the socio-economic and educational development of Muslim females in Barbados.

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