Two people sat on a sofa talking seriously.

Islamophobia and mental health

What is Islamophobia?

Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate is hostility, discrimination or violence towards Muslims. It’s racism aimed at expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.

Islamophobia can come in many different forms. It can be verbal abuse, like being called unkind names, or physical abuse, like being pushed or shoved. It can also be less visible and more subtle, like being excluded from activities or opportunities, noticing a change in behaviour from others when you speak in your mother tongue, or being singled out because of your identity. You might be treated differently or unfairly because of your faith or culture as a Muslim. You may experience it directly, witness it happen to a friend or a stranger, or hear about it in the news.

There are times when it might feel obvious, and there are times when Islamophobia might feel less obvious and hard to explain. But it’s important to recognise it and the harm it can cause. For example:

  • not getting a job interview because your name sounds Muslim
  • being prevented from praying at school or work
  • negative portrayals of Muslim people in the media
Three people chatting outside.

These less visible forms of Islamophobia can deny Muslim people opportunities and make them feel unsafe or unwelcome.

Wherever it happens and whoever it happens to, how it makes you feel is valid, and you are not alone.

Everyone deserves fair opportunities in life, and you should never be denied opportunities based on aspects of your identity. Your identity should be celebrated and be something you’re proud of, not something used to put you down, make you feel unsafe or deny you your rights.

Defining Islamophobia

A person looking at what someone is pointing at.

In 2018, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims recommended a new definition of Islamophobia to help tackle it: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

We chose this definition because it’s been shaped by lived experiences of diverse British Muslims and was created to help tackle Islamophobia. The United Nations offers a similar definition, and emphasises that Islamophobia can be found in the institutions and systems of society like education, employment and Government.

Islamophobia is a widespread issue in the UK, with research showing that over 78% of Muslim young people have experienced Islamophobia in some form.

Islamophobia impacts young people in education and employment. For example, a study by the National Union of Students (NUS) showed that 40% of the surveyed Muslim students (in higher education in the UK) would hold back from “engaging in a high profile position in their students’ union” because of the “negative portrayal of Muslims”. And research by the Social Mobility Commission revealed that job seekers with an English-sounding name were offered three times the number of interviews than an applicant with a Muslim name. These are just a few examples of how Islamophobia impacts the lives of young British Muslims.

How can Islamophobia affect your mental health?

Two people walking and talking on the street.

The impact of this type of discrimination can be long-lasting and can affect you in ways you might not even realise at first.

If you experience Islamophobic abuse, you might start to feel uncomfortable, anxious, depressed, low in confidence or self-esteem, or you might even start to experience PTSD.

Remember, Islamophobic abuse is never acceptable and never because of something you have said or done. We can’t always control how other people act towards us, but there are usually things that you can do for yourself to help you feel better.

Check out our advice below on how to report unacceptable behaviour.

Dealing with Islamophobia

If you've experienced Islamophobia, we have advice that can support you.

We spoke with young Muslims to find out about their experiences of Islamophobia and the things that helped them to get through it.

Hear their stories and advice, and take a look at our ten top tips below to support you.

1. Know your worth

Knowing your worth is often tied in with having good self-esteem. This is about believing in yourself and how confident you feel in who you are. It isn’t always easy, and if you’re struggling with this, remember that you’re not alone. There are small things you can do to feel more confident in yourself.

Check out our tips for improving self-esteem and believing in yourself.

Guide to self-esteem and believing in yourself
The worst thing is knowing people hate you before they even know you. And they think they are better than you. But you have to know they are not. You have to know who you are and be proud of that.
Nabil, 24

2. Find safe spaces and speak to someone you trust

Having spaces with people (or yourself) that you feel safe and comfortable in can be an incredible thing for your mental health. Often, it gives you room to be your true, authentic self without fear of judgement from others. This can really help to validate you and your experiences. Whether it’s online or face-to-face, joining a group or club with like-minded people (at school or work for example), can be a great way to connect with people you identify with and who may share similar experiences to you.

Talking about how you feel isn’t always easy, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to face challenges alone. Sometimes, opening up can be hard when you’re worried about how the person or people will react. This can be even harder if the person you're opening up to isn’t used to talking about mental health – particularly if they feel some kind of cultural stigma about it.

It can also feel difficult opening up about your mental health to someone who doesn’t share the same cultural or religious background as you, especially when you’re talking about things that relate to your culture or religion. You might be worried that they will misunderstand you, or judge you.

Two people sat on a sofa talking seriously.

Working out who you’re most comfortable talking to is important. But even when you know who you want to speak to, you may still worry about their reaction – this is entirely normal.

Remember, there will always be someone that wants to support you.

Read about Shah’s experience of opening up about his mental health and experiences as a young Muslim man.

What opening up about my mental health taught me as a young Muslim man
An illustration by Huda Fahmy of two females in conversation, on a white background. One is wearing blue clothes and a blue headscarf and the other is wearing purple and has curly hair. They both look concerned. A speech bubble from the female with curly hair reads: I know you joke a lot, but seriously, how do you handle all the hate?

Artwork credit: Huda Fahmy @yesimhotinthis

A person asks a young Muslim wearing a hijab: "I know you joke a lot, but seriously, how do you handle all the hate?"

Cultural identity and mental health

  • Read our guide to cultural identity and mental health for more information about the relationship between cultural identity and mental health, how to navigate expectations and pressures, and how to get the support that’s right for you.

  • Some online spaces feel safe – where it’s just Muslims talking on a level, sharing jokes and not having to constantly explain yourself or worry about people judging you.
    Jamal, 19
  • I worry if I do anything bad at work or snap at someone it will just prove to them that I am some kind of savage terrorist. I feel the pressure to represent and be even better than the best. It’s so important for me to have safe spaces to blow off steam (like in the gym), vent (with friends), shout (with my fam) and feel seen and understood.
    Safia, 23

3. Do what makes you feel physically safe

Sometimes, there are things that you can do for yourself or plans that you can put in place to make you feel safer or more confident in situations. This could be something as simple as letting a friend know what route you’re taking home from the Mosque after Friday Prayer, or taking time out to think about what you should do or who you should call if you ever feel at risk.

Remember, you deserve to feel physically, mentally and emotionally safe no matter where you are or who you’re with.

As a hijabi I feel scared that I might get spat on or attacked by a stranger because of my hijab. When I’m walking around, that thought is always lurking in the back of my mind. My school once brought in experts to talk to us about self-defence. Just having someone talk through things you could do in a dangerous situation, and ways to get away or get help, has made me feel calmer. Now I think I would be less likely to totally freak out and panic if anything happened. I’d recommend watching some videos on this – if you’re female then ideally get your tips from a woman who will be more likely to understand female physicality.
Sahar, 16
A boy in a blue denim shirt looks at his phone while sitting down against a grey sofa with a purple wall.

4. Know your rights and report unacceptable behaviour

Calling out or reporting bad things that people say or do to you can feel daunting, but it’s an important part of holding people to account for their actions and getting the justice that you deserve. Whether it’s telling someone that you trust at school, or reporting an Islamophobic incident to an organisation that can help, there are people who will want to listen to you and support you through challenging situations.


  • Tell MAMA supports victims of anti-Muslim hate and is a public service which also measures and monitors anti-Muslim incidents.

    But remember, if you have been attacked or abused, or you or someone else is in danger, you should seek urgent help first by calling 999.

I had a teacher who was always mean to me. And after a school trip abroad she told me that she had made sure she kept a special eye on me because “repressed Muslim girls would be more likely to run off and try sleeping with strangers as soon as they were away from their family.” I was 14. Looking back I wish I had told the headteacher what she said to me – I do think she would have taken it seriously. It’s just one of sooo many weird things people have said to me over the years. My advice would be – where you can – report it. Be loud. Make a fuss. Stand your ground. Slowly things might change. Even if it might feel like no one will do anything about it, but you never know. And maybe that person might be forced to think again.
Hannah, 20

5. Use your voice

Speaking up or saying what’s on your mind is often a healthy way of expressing yourself, whether face-face or online. It allows you to share your unique perspective, opinions and knowledge on things that matter to you. Standing up for what you think is right can also help you to feel more in control. Remember, no two voices are the same, and what you say and feel are important.

I can’t get over how ignorant people are about Islam – I’m talking about well-educated people with good jobs. They say the most outrageously stupid things, and they have the nerve to call us backward! It blows my mind. But then I look at our politicians, media, TV, movies and I think ‘no wonder people hate us.’ My advice is find a way to use your voice. You might not be a movie-maker or MP but you still have a voice. Even if it’s just a tweet. Doesn’t matter. We can’t let other people create our truth for us.
Salma, 25

6. Clean up your social media

For many of us, social media is a massive part of our lives. It can help us to feel connected, and keep us in tune with what’s going on in the world. But if you’re seeing stuff online that makes you feel angry, sad, worried, stressed or annoyed, this can build up and start having a negative or harmful impact on your life. If you ever feel overwhelmed, unable to switch off, or find it difficult to cope, you’re not alone.

We all struggle to keep our online world positive sometimes. But often, there are small steps you can take to help you have a better time online.

Check out Muslim Youth Helpline’s blog on how to clean up your social media for faith-friendly tips and advice.

You can also read our guide to social media and mental health.

Guide to social media and mental health
A boy wearing a grey t-shirt sits beside a window while using Facebook on his laptop.
Social media is a hellscape for Muslims. You have to be so careful to protect yourself in terms of what you see, who you follow and what you click on. Even if it’s nonsense from other Muslims who give us a bad name. I feel like ignorant people are the loudest on both sides. My tip is if you think it might upset you just keep scrolling past. You can’t control what they say, but to an extent you can control what you see.
Sakinah, 21

7. Take part in activism

Taking part in activism can be a great way to create positive change for the people and things that you care about. It can also help you to feel proactive and more in control of the world you live in. Remember, activism can look different for everyone and there is no one way to do it. Whether it’s campaigning at a local march or raising awareness on social media, it’s about what you feel able to do. But remember that it’s not your responsibility to fix everything, so be kind to yourself.

Eleanor, 18, shares her advice for looking after your mental health while engaging in activism work on our blog.

How to look after your mental health when involved in activism work
  • Hating Muslims and Islam is socially acceptable in my opinion. If you take an Islamophobic headline and swap the word Muslim for any other religion, half of them would be deemed too offensive to publish. That’s why if something really crosses the line, I make an effort to write an official complaint. Or when the Government discriminates against us, I write to my MP. At least my conscience knows that when I face God I can say I tried to do something. All we can do is try.
    Hassan, 22
  • Islamophobia makes you feel powerless. I try to take my power back. But while rage can be energising, it can also be very draining, so if you’re engaging in activism, make sure you look after yourself and give yourself time to switch off and recharge.
    Sakinah, 21

8. Pick your battles

When you see and hear people spreading misinformation about Islam or Muslims, you might feel misunderstood, frustrated or hurt. You may want to spend time educating them on your decisions or worldview, which can be exhausting. If this speaks to you, remember that you’re not alone and your feelings are valid. Putting boundaries in place for yourself can help you to draw a line when you need to put yourself and your mental health first.

Check out our mental health advice for young Muslims for more faith-friendly tips around setting boundaries.

Mental health advice for young Muslims
Illustration by Huda Fahmy of a female wearing blue clothes and a blue headscarf, lying on a sofa with popcorn. A speech bubble reads: I wish I didn't feel like I always have to be "breaking barriers."

Artwork credit: Huda Fahmy @yesimhotinthis

A young Muslim wearing a hijab sitting on the sofa says: "I wish I didn't feel like I always have to be "breaking barriers"."

I don’t argue with people anymore. If someone seems like they genuinely want to understand me, that’s different – maybe I’ll recommend some videos or books. If they want to educate themselves they will. But some people just want to argue and they won’t open their minds. At some point I said ‘Enough!' I can never make you like me. I don’t need you to like me. I don’t need you to agree with me. I just need to like myself. End of story.
Khaled, 24

9. Focus on self-care

Self-care is the little things we do to look after our own mental health. It’s about trying to listen to how you are feeling and understanding what you need, even if it’s difficult, so you can care for yourself. This could mean taking time out when you’re feeling overwhelmed, making time to do an activity that you know makes you feel good, or it could be as simple as making sure to do the basics like eating and sleeping when you’re struggling.

It’s normal to dismiss your own needs because there are ‘bigger’, ‘more important’ things to worry about. You might feel guilty if the things that make you feel good conflict with the responsibilities you feel towards yourself or what people you care about want and expect from you. But self-care isn’t selfish, and you deserve kindness.

For more advice, read our faith-friendly guide to self-care written with young Muslims.

A self-care guide for young Muslims
Two young Muslim women in headscarves talking.
The type of person that hates you or wishes you harm is not the type of person who is happy with themselves. Do I want to be like that? No. Do I want to carry anger that these people exist? No. I choose to nourish my soul and focus on things that bring me joy. I am finding ways to feel confident enough in who I am so that I can find peace. That’s how I can be a person who makes life better for others.
Sakinah, 21

Artwork credit: @mulimtraumatherapist

Title reads: 'After a community trauma'

Four items in a list read: 'spiritual practices and prayer', 'action items like donations, petitions, town halls', 'self-soothe', 'the feelings won't go right away, so be kind to yourself'.

10. Limit your news intake

Unlimited access to news lets us learn about what’s happening around us. But sometimes, what we hear about and see can affect us personally and hurt our feelings. If you’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, confused or angry about the news, remember that you’re not alone. Try setting healthy limits or boundaries on what you engage with, where you get your news from and when. It can help you to feel more in control of the type of information you take in.

A group of young people walking on the street and talking.
I can’t deal with how much bad there is going on in the world. For my own mental health I have had to limit how much news I read.
Maz, 25
Islamophobia Awareness Month #MuslimStories

Islamophobia Awareness Month

YoungMinds are a proud supporter of the Islamophobia Awareness Month campaign, an important movement that strives to see a society free of Islamophobia in all its forms.

Find out more about the campaign

More information and advice

If you’re worried about how Islamophobia has affected your life and wellbeing, you might need some professional support to help you deal with it. For more tips and advice, take a look at our guides.


Get help now

If you've experienced Islamophobia and want support for your mental health, these organisations can help.

  • Muslim Youth Helpline

    Provides faith and culturally sensitive support for young Muslims. 

    Online chat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 10pm, 365 days a year
  • Tell MAMA

    Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) is a secure and reliable service that supports victims of anti-Muslim hate, and allows people from across England to report any form of Anti-Muslim abuse.

  • The Islamophobia Response Unit

    The Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) is an independent charity dedicated to supporting people affected by Islamophobic incidents in England and Wales.

    You can contact their helpline from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, or send them an email.

  • Citizens Advice

    Provides information and advice on issues such as discrimination because of race and/or religion, benefits, work, universal credit, debt, housing and immigration.

    Webchat service available.

    Opening times:
    9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday
  • Stop Hate UK

    A confidential and independent helpline for anyone experiencing Hate Crime and discrimination. You can use the helpline to report incidents and get help and support. The helpline is open 24/7 and is reachable by phone, text or email.

    Please note that this service is only available in some parts of the UK. Please use their form to check whether you can use the helpline in your area.

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission

    Find out more about your rights under the Equality Act 2010 and how it protects different characteristics, such as gender, race and sexuality.

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