Firstly, mashAllah! Secondly, Alhamdulillah! Thirdly, wow! Leyla Habebti travelled to Norwich on Saturday with intentions to deliver a talk on awareness of Mental Health, and her personal experiences. Not only did she do that, but she also brought about a sense of connection. Leyla told the small community of ladies in Norwich about her own story and battles, and she emphasised “everyone has a story to tell” – we all knew this, and it suddenly dawned on us, that yes, we all do have a story. Whether we say it out loud or not, we all have a story, and this brought about a stronger connection than just sisters in Islam, we became sisters with stories.
Everyone came to a mutual understanding that mental health is a sensitive topic, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak about it – or totally push it out of the way because we haven’t got the exact answers or solutions, but be brought to the forefront and taken with awareness. When good and positive company was mentioned, I couldn’t help but think of the hadith that mentions a person is on the religion of their friends – and this probably had the most impact on the young teenage girls who I later overheard say “I’m glad you would understand if I was to ever come to you with a problem”, so we can definitely say that Leyla exceeded her intentions. After making it clear how common mental health problems are, we all realised that we are not alone. We no longer felt like strangers to one another, but sensed some sort of deeper understanding of one another.
I noticed that a few sisters exchanged meaningful glances as if they were saying with their eyes “we have some talking to do”, or smiling with their slightly teary eyes as if to say “I know, and I am here”. The talk made many sisters emotional, and lots of tissues were handed round, some shared their stories out loud, whilst others spoke to Leyla at the end and reached out for help. Many sisters were eager to ask questions on how to deal with friends with mental health but were unaware of their situation, or help friends who keep putting themselves down, to how to speak out about it and bring themselves back up – even after the talk ended, and food was being served, Leyla had a queue of sisters waiting to ask her something. MashAllah the talk was successful in educating, caring, and connecting, Alhamdulillah the talk brought us all closer together and more aware, and most importantly, we’ve just made another community active on empowering and putting mental health first.