Dealing With Depression: Your Role

The Islamic faith is not unfamiliar with tests and tribulations. This is the twelfth in a series of articles on depression according to Islam. It is from the On Demand Course: Mental Health Workshop – An Islamic Guide to Dealing with Depression.

What is your role as a helper? What do you do about this? How do you offer to help without prying, being nosy, and giving the impression that you are after the latest gossip? 

This depends on how you are with that person generally. Your questions of concern should ideally come in the context of an ongoing relationship. Cultivate relationships with people. Generally, it does not have to take a huge amount of effort. 

Consider sending a message to somebody you have not texted for a while. “How are you doing?” Sometimes people need that. They need to know that someone is thinking about them. 

Sometimes, knowing that someone cares enough to contact you, can be sufficient to take a downward spiral and convert it to an upward spiral. Even a smile can change someone’s day, it could be the thing that stops a person from wanting to end their life.

Inquiry after someone’s health ideally sits in a framework where there is a relationship between you. However, it does not always have to be. If you are concerned about a person, a very simple straightforward open question, “How are you doing? Is everything Okay? If you need to talk, I’m free. Give me a shout.” Sometimes, that is all that is required. 

Assertive in Concern

If you are concerned about a person and they say “Yes” after asking them is they are fine, should you be satisfied with that? No. What do you do then? You can get a little more assertive.

Sometimes, we may feel too embarrassed to manifest care. “If you want to talk, I’m here.” That is what it requires. People just need to know that you are serious in your concern and that you are not asking for the sake of it. 

Now, if someone is ready to talk and they do not want you to talk, then listen. What they need is to be heard. Often people know the answer. They just cannot get to it. There is too much stuff in the way.

The time and the space to be able to clear things away is what they need. They cannot do it themselves. They need somebody in there. Give people the space to be listened to. It may not be easy. Anger and frustration come from hurt.

When a person is hurting and they may say things they do not mean. It may not be the case that when you are upset you say the things that you really mean. It is an exposure of a side of you that is not necessarily a particularly pretty side. 

One of the things that stokes the fire of psychological distress inside a person, is a thought inside that seems very real and plausible. Sometimes, when one takes that thought out of one’s head and one examines it, one comes to realise that it is actually not that plausible. Listening is a very difficult skill. You might think it is easy until you have tried it.

Trust and Distress

Trust is critical. It is about confidentiality and confidentiality is critical. If somebody says to you, “Tonight, I am going to hang myself. I bought the rope and I have identified the tree. I’m doing it tonight.” Is this something you cannot tell anyone because of confidentiality? Obviously not.

If someone discloses that there is current harm taking place to them, can you sit on this? You really should not. There is harm occurring right now. 

Most things the people will tell you is because they feel reassured that you are not going to go and inform everybody else. Some may feel embarrassed to visit a doctor because he is part of the community and they fear he is going to tell others about this embarrassing, physical health problem. 

Whoever removes a hardship from a person Allah will remove hardships from them on the Day of Judgment. And whoever makes it easy for a person, Allah will make it easy for them. Whoever covers their brother and sister, Allah will cover them. And whoever maintains the dignity of their brother and sister, Allah will maintain their dignity.

Human Dignity

One of the underlying purposes of our religion is the maintenance of human dignity. This is about not saying things about a person that they would not want to be said.

Gatherings are a Trust. This is the type of thing that you should learn a bit more about. 

Do not harm yourself in the process of helping another person. Allah says:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ قُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًۭا

“O you who believe, shield yourselves and your families from a horrific fire” [Quran, 66:6; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

If you cannot protect yourself, you are in no position to help or protect others. You yourself should have someone you can go back to, consult with, and talk to.

Those doing therapy need to have their own therapy at the same time. One can take on burdens from people which can have an effect on one. 


People are in need of compassion. I experienced this a lot. Sometimes, when a person really needs something, they can get quite selfish about it. 

Some of your compassion needs to be self-focused. Think about yourself and your own needs as well as the other person’s needs. 

Do not let your hands be tied behind your neck, meaning, do not be tight-fisted so that you do not give anything. But also, do not spread your arms out wide, meaning do not give everything. Rather, seek a moderate way between these two. 

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would give like he did not fear tomorrow. He also gave of himself entirely to his nation.