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Muslim Mental Health Conference


By Adil James, TMO

Lansing–March 26–Dr. Farha Abbasi, an assistant professor  in psychiatry at Michigan State University, organized the third annual Muslim Mental Health Conference in Lansing this past Saturday afternoon.

Present were approximately 250 guests, including many prominent politicians from around Michigan, including Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, East Lansing mayor Victor Loomis Jr.,

This conference is the fruit of a research grant that Dr. Abbasi won from the federal government.  She explained that in the Muslim community there is stigma attached to mental health issues, and that there are cultural and language barriers–”therefore I am using the grant to make a conference where everyone can come together, the community can come and American Psychiatrists can come.”
Prof. Abbasi explains that actually the biggest trauma for American Muslims is 9/11, the media image.  Therefore one of her conferences focused on the myth that all Muslims are terrorists. 

Several different studies were presented at her conference, including one by David Chandler of Duke University, who argues that mental illness is behind terrorism.  A Muslim chaplain from the army came and spoke about lessons learned from Fort Hood, and about domestic violence. 

This year, explained Prof. Abbasi, “is the decade anniversary of 9/11, so wanted to do something different–trauma, but also the resilience and strength in the community and for the future, what can be done.  This resilience was studied in students, who were at the time of 9/11 only 6 years old–how they coped, how they perceived family, and how they are doing now, looking for the theme of resiliency.”

Professor Juan Cole gave the keynote speech.

Prof. Abbasi wanted to push, through the conference, the theme of goals shared and acceptance.  She explained, “to accept is to learn the art of coexistence.”

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