Addressing depression in Muslim communities


National healthcare policies state that professionals should take account of cultural identity and provide appropriate healthcare for minority ethnic and religious groups. Professionals may get little practical support to do this however and there is very little research evidence about how to meet the needs of minority faith groups.

Some people in Muslim communities experience higher rates and longer periods of mental ill-health than other groups. There is evidence that services that draw on faith as a resource can help reduce or prevent long-term depression and improve people’s quality of life. However, little evidence has been available about how to develop faith-based approaches for Muslim service users in the UK.

Aim & Objectives

To fill the gap in knowledge about how best to address the needs of Muslim service users with depression through:

  • Adapting a mental health therapy called Behavioural Activation, combining existing approaches with evidence from existing research and practice to produce a culturally adapted therapy (BA-M) and treatment manual for practitioners
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the approach through randomised control trials and gathering feedback on how acceptable and useful Muslim service users and their therapists find the approach
  • Outlining in detail important principles and effective methods for treating Muslim service users from a variety of ethnic backgrounds


The research has been undertaken through a series of studies which follow the Medical Research Council guidelines for the development of complex interventions:

Phase 1:  Development of the BA-M therapy: this involved a synthesis of evidence from existing literature and interviews with experts in the area, including Muslim people with lived experience of depression.

Phase 2:  Piloting the therapy: to check its acceptability and feasibility in practice

Phase 3:  Evaluation: we have conducted two randomised control trials of BA-M in Pakistan and the UK.  The UK trial involved NHS and voluntary sector therapists.  

Phase 4:  Implementation: we aim to produce guidance on implementing BA-M in practice.

Our research findings

Therapy Resources

The following publicly available resources have been developed to help practitioners and Muslim clients.  If you are interested in using these resources within a mental health service please contact Ghazala Mir with further details about how you plan to work with these:

Conference Presentations

Culturally Adapted Treatment for Depression – development and evaluation

A conference to launch the BA-M therapy and support culturally competent mental healthcare was held in 2012.

‘Adapting Therapies for Faith Communities Conference’: 6th September 2012, at St Peter's House/Kala Sangam, 1 Forster Square, Bradford BD1 4TY.

Click links to read the presentations.

  1. Suman Fernando: Psychological therapies in a multicultural, multi-faith society
  2. Jonathan Kanter: Adapting Behavioural Activation to the values of Latino clients
  3. Ghazala Mir and Shaista Meer: Addressing depression in Muslim communities
  4. Service User Panel: Experiences of therapy and mental health
  5. Jonathan Kanter – Strategies for delivering BA in diverse communities: a therapist workshop
  6. Ghazala Mir/Shaista Meer – Religious Activation
  7. Dean Macmillan - Adapted BA therapy in practice
  8. Simon Large: Research and service development at Bradford District Care Trust


The adapted therapy is being delivered in a number of primary care mental health services across England and therapy teams have been given training to support this. Therapists in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia have also been trained to deliver the approach.

A BBC article covering the research has raised awareness of the approach nationally and internationally. 

BBC article Mental health therapy for Muslims embraces religion 

Fair services for all: why inequality matters to everyone

Iqra TV – interview with Professor Ghazala Mir about the BA-M self-help booklet

Iqra TV – interview with Professor Ghazala Mir about the BA-M therapy

BBC News Arabic  – القرآن "علاج نفسي للمسلمين في بريطانيا"