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In our Voices for Wellbeing series, QPASTT profiles community leaders and representatives working to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing across Queensland’s communities. 

In this edition, we speak to Mr Habib Jamal, President of Queensland Muslims Inc.

What are your goals and aspirations to support the mental health and wellbeing of community members? 

Within Islamic communities, there’s a lot of shame and stigma attached to mental health, which can make people hesitant to seek help and advice. Even confiding in somebody that you’re struggling can be a very difficult thing. 

Oftentimes, the first point of call to seek help is religious and faith leaders. Some are trained in mental health, but many are not and so they may call on community leaders and representatives for guidance and advice. 

My aim is to empower community members, by helping to remove that stigma, but also to support them in how to seek help, e.g. through their GP. 

Historically and culturally, when someone is struggling with their mental health, people can often jump to conclusions and can draw upon quite derogatory stereotypes and labels, like saying someone is “crazy,” for example, which can lead to isolation or causing someone to struggle alone rather than confiding in someone or seeking help. 

But mental health issues can arise for a variety of reasons, and often because of grief, of loss, of trauma.  This can be especially true in migrant communities who have had to leave their family behind.  The impact of loss can be so much greater when you have not been able to be close to a loved one.  There can often be guilt attached to that. 

How can service providers here in Australia support community members or respond to community need, particularly around health and wellbeing? 

Community service providers can build relationships and trust with communities, leaders and representatives so that people feel safe seeking help and are confident that their privacy and confidentiality will be upheld.

In my position as a community leader, I can be a link between community members and services and help build trust.  It is important I am not personally involved, to ensure confidentiality and privacy, but knowing the service can provide reassurance to community members. 

It’s important that services are responsive to language barriers and ensure appropriate language and cultural support is available. 

How do you support your own mental wellbeing? 

I like being busy. I really enjoy the community work that I do, and I try to ensure that I don’t let things stress me, by understanding what I can control and what is out of my control. 

I try to learn from problems and mistakes rather than getting stressed about them, and I make sure I spend time on the things that are important to me, like family, prayer and reflection, as well as activities that let me switch off – like watching sport. 

Mr Habib Jamal left South Africa to escape apartheid, settling in New Zealand and later in Australia.   

He is the President of Queensland Muslims Inc which represents 45 organizations and seeks to promote social justice, inclusivity, diversity and interfaith understanding and collaboration.  

Mr Jamal is an advisor to the Queensland African Communities Council, a member of the Queensland Police Service’s Multicultural Advisory Group and the Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast, as well as a Queensland Ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation Australia.  

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