NJ: MENTAL CARE PROVIDERS LEARN HOW TO UNDERSTAND MUSLIM PATIENTS
PATERSON — Ancient. Clannish. Observant. Diverse. Exotic. Rehan Seyam wrote each answer down after asking her audience to free-associate on the term Arab-American.
The exercise was part of an awareness training called “working with the Arab-American community” at Barnert Hospital on Thursday, conducted by Seyam, who works there part-time as a mental health clinician.
“These are families often brought from cultures where it’s taboo to discuss mental health,” Seyam told the audience of mostly mental health professionals. “If it’s taboo to discuss mental health or divorce, you can imagine how hard it is to discuss depression.”
Seyam, 25, of Parsippany, grew up in New Jersey and became one of the few Arab-American, Muslim mental health professionals in the state. Besides her work as a therapist, she tries to improve understanding of Arab-Americans among non-Arab practitioners, and to persuade Arab-American and Muslim clients that seeking therapy for mental health issues is not shameful.
Thursday’s session began with Seyam clarifying some common misconceptions: not all Arabs are Muslim, she reminded the audience, and not all Muslims are Arab.