Religious Studies Professor Discusses the Complexities of Mental Health Conversations in Faith Communities

Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies. Photo by John Buckingham

Suicide is a complex and delicate topic in U.S. Muslim communities. In an effort to address the barriers excluding Muslims from seeking mental health support, a group of mental health professionals are working with faith leaders and activists to raise awareness in Muslim communities about suicide prevention and mental health.

In an interview with Associated Press, Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, talked about the belief common to theistic traditions that one’s life belongs to God, so taking it "fundamentally violates" God's most precious gift.

According to Schmalz, it's important to challenge beliefs that suicide signals moral weakness or a failure to be grateful of God as well as appreciate the complexities of mental illness. 

"While an understanding of God as merciful is important," Schmalz said, "equally important is being part of a faith community in which mental health issues are taken seriously and not stigmatized."

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