Depression – What depression?

Written By Khadija Tai

Having worked as a social worker for the last 8 years in Birmingham, I have come across depression almost on a daily basis. With my experience and real life exposure to this illness, I write the following:


So what is depression?

The general definition of depression is a psychological disorder that affects a person's mood changes, physical functions and social interactions.

We can all feel sad and low from time to time.  Many times when you have these feelings you stop enjoying life and lose interest in doing the things that you usually enjoy doing because you may be depressed. Depression is a serious illness which can make it hard to cope with everyday life. Getting support and the right type of help can make a difference.

Who gets depressed?

Depression is the most common mental health problem for young people. About one in five young people will have experienced depression by the time they are 25. But many will not try to get help for it because they don't understand it, feel bad about it or don't know how to talk about it.  Young women get depressed more often than young men, but both men and women suffer from depression.

How do you know if you’re depressed?

You may be depressed if you:

Feel sad, down, miserable, bad-tempered or irritable most of the time
Have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy
Have troubles with relationships, feel lonely, unloved or misunderstood
Have trouble concentrating with your studies or work
Feel tired much of the time, or have lower energy than usual
Feel more worried and anxious
Have problems sleeping or want to sleep all the time
Lose a lot of weight because you are not interested in eating or you put on a lot of weight because you want to eat much more than usual
Feel guilty or worthless and that life is not worth living
Feel like harming yourself or feel suicidal

Often someone who is depressed does not realise that they are depressed, they just feel bad. They can feel embarrassed and guilty and won't ask for help because of this.

It may be hard for others to realise you are depressed. They may think you are just in a bad mood, angry, wanting to cause trouble or even just lazy which can make it harder to get help.

What causes depression? When something goes wrong, such as trouble at school, college or work, most people feel sad and often they are said to be 'depressed'. But usually these feelings get better with time and people get on with doing the things they want to do.

These factors can trigger depression, but usually there is more than one reason for a person to become depressed and there may not be an obvious 'trigger' for depression. It is not easy to say why people become depressed – it is different for each person.

There may have been a difficult time in life which makes it more likely to become depressed
A breakup of a personal or family relationship, the loss or death of someone close such as a parent or sibling
Bullying, abuse, violence or conflict in your family, school or workplace
Having had a major injury or illness, can make it more likely that someone can become depressed
There can be an inherited tendency to get depressed or have another mental illness. However even if you have a family history of depression, this does not necessarily mean that you will experience depression too
Bullying, abuse, violence or conflict in your family, school or workplace
Stress due to unemployment, loss of a job, lack of success with study or work, homelessness
Some people seem more likely to become depressed – worriers, perfectionists, very sensitive people, self critical and shy people
Big changes in life such as having a baby can lead to depression for both women and men (Postnatal depression)

What are the effects of depression?

As well as feeling bad, people who are depressed may have problems with relating to their family and friends and stop doing things they usually enjoy. They may spend a lot of time alone. They may start doing poorly with their studies or have problems at work.

Some people turn towards illegal substances and other harmful routes. They may behave in risky ways, or 'act out' – being angry, aggressive or behaving badly. Depression can also have long term effects such as dropping out of education, quitting a job and the break up friendships and marriages.

How do you deal with depression?

Depression is like any other illness – you need to find ways to get through it and ways to stop it coming back. Depression is not a sign of weakness – you can't just 'pull yourself together'. Without help, depression usually does get better eventually, but often there has been damage to the person's life and relationships which could possibly not be repaired.

Some of the following suggestions can be very helpful:

Talk to a person you trust such as a friend, parent, school or work counsellor – keeping it to yourself will only makes matters worse.
See your doctor – who can give you information and support and who may refer you to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
Your doctor may think that anti-depressant medicines may help - but they should be used with regular check ups and counselling support. Most doctors will be reluctant to prescribe medication to people under the age of 18.
Exercise and maintain a healthy diet
Have sufficient sleep  
Practise relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation
Do some goal setting
Write down all the causes of your feelings and what you can do about each. Make small steps so that you can see the progress you are making to deal with depression.


Other really important things

Stay active and connected with those who care
Even ‘little’ things like talking with a friend and going for a walk
Keep praying to Allah
Have faith and build your relationship with your Lord
Don't stay in bed, nap or lie around all day
Do not block out depression. This doesn't make things better and can have very bad side effects if left untreated.

If my friend is depressed, what can I do to help them?

You can help your friend by taking their feelings seriously. Let your friend know that you care and will listen wholeheartedly. Although it may be hard for your friend to talk at first, let them know that you’re around because you care. Spend time with your friend and do things that your friend wants to do. If your friend wants support when he/she visits a counsellor, community health worker or doctor, offer to join them if they wish for you to be with them. Yes it may be hard for you too, because you’ll witness the tears and distressing moments of your friend but you don’t have to try to ‘fix’ it – listening and caring is the most important thing. Help your friend to work out the causes of his/her depression and do some goal setting to deal with it.


It's just about depression so that's probably why dementia and alzheimer's aren't mentioned. It should've mentioned bi-polar though, being the other type of depression.

I just googled mental health support groups for Muslims, nothing came up which was particularly useful. This is a surely a vital gap for the the muslim community or would you say there are alernatives which are useful and this isn't completely necessary?

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

Why must it be a 'muslim' rehab centre? 

Back in BLACK

WARNING LENGTHY POST. i dont really know what the below is. its first a reply. then actually its a "how i delt with depression" thing then it turns into some kind of islamic studies lesson.


Titanium wrote:

To be fair when youre mentally disadvantaged the last thing you will give a thought too is God because your brain goes weird and starts to worry abt everything around you before it can comprehend 

thats just your opinion based on im guessing the one person you know.

now to balance this out. i will tell you about my aunt who went through this crazy depressed phase and couldnt do much at all. BUT she never missed a singler prayer. would drop all when prayer time came and go to pray.


a muslim rehab centre would be great. i'd love to work there.

Ayah of the Quran: "verily in the rememberance of Allah do hearts find rest". i think thats the key to when you're feeling low (but not clinically depressed) or when you might be clinically depressed or getting there but have a strong link with religion/Allah still.

but still, if Allah said this, there must be solace in it for everyone. i found the thought of a perfect being who knew my pain and what i was going through and what i had been through extremely comforting, reassuring, a rope of hope and reassurance they kept me anchored. i didnt drift off to the middle of nowhere and ended up on meds. and for that i can only thank Allah. alhamdulillah.

i think its improtant to remember that everything, absolutely everything has a cure. im not just talking about mental illnesses. physical ones too, everything. but the mental ones are harder to comprehend because we're hardly exposed to them + the society we live in doesnt use them (like they promote healthy eating and stuff for physical illness..)


there is deep solace in believing what i said above and also in another thing. that this Being decides and controls everything. it eases the burden, it enables one to breathe and pause and think its going to be okay.

actually one more belief. the belief that "Allah never burdens a soul beyond what it can bear" and "After every hardship comes ease". those are catch phrases everyone want to believe in. but a muslim can actually totally and blindly believe in them because they were said about Our maker and Creator and Sustainor. and if you believe He's your maker and then believe in all those other things i mention, life slowly slowly gets better.


one more thing. when you've hit rock bottom, havent got the energy to do anything, havent got teh interest to do anything. dont know where to head, where to look,  what to do. it's nice that God also told us our purpsoe in life, it helps the one who's hit rock bottom to start somewhere to get back up. and thats "And i have nto created djinn nor mankind except to worship Me". so very simple. and simplicity is definitely what one wants when one is trying to sort themselves out/come out of depression. because when you're depressed you overthink things like crazy and everything feels so frikking OVERwhelming and unbearable and difficult and tiring and exhausting adn you already dotn have any energy anyway. so just being told "to worship Allah". thats nice. simple. Islam is simple. and fits perfectly and makes perfect sense and is just so beautiful in every single way.

islam is different thigns to different people, actually, Islam, in one person's own life, will be different things at different stage. might be something you feel is choking you, or a safety harness, or a safety net, or a path, or a handrail on a path to hold on to, or one of those things you get in airports that move you forward, like a straight escalator (actually its called a moving walkway - ah friends..and google), or a parachute or a jetpack. or whatever else!

back to the simplicity of Islam when coming out of depression. so, you've got your first step. "worship" and islam's simplicity wont stop there. it'll hold your hand a bit more. How do you worship? you start with the 5 pillars of Islam. nice and simple.

1) Shahada





they are in that order for a particular reason actually. and you need to work through them in that order otherwise it'll lead to trouble and messiness. its like a cake recipe. most people think Shahada is quickly done. it cant be. prayer was only instilled the way we have it now THREE years after the beginning of islam. the rest of teh pillars were sent down THIRTEEN years after first revelation. so no jumping steps. start with Shahada. understand the statement, study the statement. you dont have to do this alone. there's loads of books out there about it, just ask. they're usually called books abt Aqeedah (creed). but at the end of the day, we're born with this belief ingrained in us. Our souls were once gathered in front of Allah and testified that He was our Lord. the only reason one might need to study this in a bit of depth is because of what society does to us, skews things and messes them up. so just to straighten up our belief, its worth reading a book or two to clarifigy things. But as ive been saying quite a bit now, Islam is simple, the shahada is simple. Belief that none deserve to be worshipped except Allah and belief that Muhammad (sallAllahu’alaihiwassalaam – peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is the messenger of Allah.

The keywords to be understood correctly here (and that are often misnderstood or not fully understood) are “belief, worship, messenger” if one knows and understands the full extent of those words and apply them, one would be set for life. And it might take time to understand, that’s why Allah pretty much spent THIRTEEN years focusing on this (the makkan period) to make sure it was understood and assimilated properly. And its worth it. There are many ahadith that mention that one would enter paradise having done nothing good except affirming the Shahada.

Still though, let us again look at the seerah (life story of the prophet sallAllahu’alaihiwassalaam). The prophet and his companions were praying even during the makkan periods, even before the night Journey and the Ascension which led to the 2nd pillar of Islam. They were praying during those first 3 years. This shows that when you start with Islam you don’t say “I will not do anything ebfore I get past the shahada and fully understand it inside and out”. That wont work. Prayer, fasting, Zakaah, they all HELP you understand the shahada better. These 5 pillars are intertwined and inseparable. One might start off doing the last 4 pillars in a robotic manner, or as “rituals” but slowly slowly, as one starts to understand the true meaning of the shahada, the other 4 pillars take on a new meaning, a new appearance, they feel differently; one slowly move from Islam to Iman (the 2nd level of the religion. The third being Ihsan).


Islam is a big thing where everything is intertwined. There’s no problem looking and doing extra thing, but there is a general guideline, for your own good. To help you follow and understand this path.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) that he said: The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Surely, Allah, The Exalted, said, “Whoever shows enmity to an ally of Mine, I have waged war upon him. My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have obligated upon him. My servant continues to draw near to Me with the voluntary acts until I love him. Once I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would surely grant it to him. If he were to seek refuge with Me, I would surely protect him.” [Sahih al-Bukhari] –

Told by the one that is Perfect. How more guiding and reassuring?


(I ask you to remember that im just human and as flawed if not more than you, and that whatever wrongness there is above is from my own flawed mind/understanding/lack of knowledge and whatever is good from there and is correct and true is actually from Allah who granted me the honour of learning it correctly and remembering it correctly and for this I will be eternally yet flawly grateful. And now a little duah, I ask Allah to help ALL of us get closer to Him and be grateful to Him and fulfill our true purpose because that’s the only way we’ll ever be happy. I pray for that lightness in my brother and sister’s heart that is a sign (from my own experience) of happiness - actually, I’ll just pray for your happiness. The true stuff, not the “money, kids, family, house” stuff – because ive no idea whether that lightness really is a sign of true happiness. )

Im so sorry for talking so much and typing my thought process out and putting you all through all this. If you’ve read up to here without skipping much then, I pray this was kinda worth it and that you be rewarded by Allah for every millisecond you spent reading this.

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Straight escalator = Travelator. I saw it's name in a Floor Plan Map and instantly thought of your post lol.