People who have left their faith often find their mental health at risk from many different angles, whether it be family, community, friends and sometimes we find ourselves being our worst enemy.
In our experience, the more conservative your background, the more risk there is towards your short and long term mental health due to addtional angles like honour, emotional abuse and sometimes physical abuse. However the impact and combination of religious and culturally traditional upbringing can have a significant impact on the mental health of people both within and outside of a faith system. This is not always limited to conservative families: every apostate’s story is different.
The impact of these risks can include mood swings, i.e. from spiritual highs to suicidal feelings and self-loathing about repeated “sins”, panic attacks about apocalyptic concepts like the rapture or the Day of Judgement and post-traumatic stress from honour based violence and psychological control.
Mental health is already very stigmatised in society, and often more so in conservative faith communities. This may make it hard for you to speak to people in your local faith community about your mental health, there is sometimes an instinctive pressure on them to protect their faith community.
There are many myths about mental health in general society, and this is more so in conservative communities and families. Be prepared to face downplaying of your mental health problems by friends and even family from your faith community, including the idea that your faith was somehow corrupted by a predisposition to psychological problems.
The best thing to do in this situation is to reach out to a mental health organisation or professional. There are also many fantastic resources online to speak to people who are non-judgemental about your mental health problems, often the first and hardest thing to do is simply accept that you have a problem.
We are currently building our list, but to start with:
You might not want to talk to a family member or close friend about things that are so very difficult and/or personal. If this is the case and you are struggling, you could try one of the following help lines:
Samaritans 116 123 (UK) (available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts)
Saneline 0845 767 8000 6pm – 11pm every day (practical information, crisis care and emotional support)
No Panic 0800 138 8889 10am – 10pm every day UK Freephone (for people experiencing panic or anxiety problems)
Aanchal 0845 451 2547 (24 hour crisis line for Asian women experiencing domestic abuse)
NHS and other services: If you need to you can contact your GP on the usual number during surgery hours. Outside of surgery hours you can call NHS Direct 111, and the team will direct you to the most appropriate care.
It is very important to remember: you are not alone.