Project Sawubona seeks to make therapy more accessible and affordable. [Picture: Energy Resourcing]
Islamotherapist founder Ml Saeed Malizani is on a mission to make therapy more accessible and affordable through the Project Sawubona. He said this was in response to the need for action against mental health issues in the Muslim community.
Founded in May 2022, Project Sawubona is an initiative by Malizani’s psychotherapy foundation, the Saeed Malizani Foundation. Sawubona is a Zulu term that means “We see you.” In a mental health context, it could mean, “We can see that you are going through a lot”.
“The whole idea behind Project Sawubona is to make Muslim mental health accessible and affordable to everybody, but particularly Muslims because it uses Islamic models of psychotherapy,” said Malizani in an interview on Salaamedia.
Blended model of Project Sawubona
Malizani, a professional psychologist, combines Islamic teachings, secular research and indigenous concepts such as ubuntu to address mental health issues in what he calls ‘Islamotherapy’.
“You take the African philosophy of ubuntuism, where it is encouraged that everybody is part of a whole … Where you are part of the community and you do something for the community, research supports that view that you will become a better person,” he said.
As he explained, there was a need for mainstream psychology to be substantiated by prophetic teachings as he identified gaps in its models. For example, he said, mainstream psychology failed to address the nafs.
“There is a very big gap and need for people who are Islamic psychotherapy practitioners because the models that are coming from mainstream psychology have problems within themselves. [They] are not rooted within Qur’an and the sunnah themselves.”
According to the 2022 Annual Mental State of the World Report from Sapien Labs, the state of mental health among South Africans was lower than most of their global peers. This makes a strong case for initiatives like Project Sawubona.
The report found that Venezuela had the highest score with 91 on a scale between -100 (distressed) and 200 (thriving). The UK and South Africa had the lowest scores at 46.
In the eight English-speaking countries studied, including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Singapore, and South Africa, there was a 3% decline in mental well-being compared to the 2020 results.
South Africa specifically had the lowest average score on the mental health well-being scale and the rate of distressed or struggling on the scale increased by 8% from 28.5% in 2020 to 36%.
Malizani said it would be helpful to address mental health challenges with the right people, and further encouraged people to support each other by simply being there.
“Our support should not be to direct people on how to do things or on how to grieve. Our support should be to be there,” he said.