“Our imams get hundreds of requests every week,” said Azleena Azhar, a trained Muslim chaplain and one of the leaders of the referral initiative. “It’s been very overwhelming for them. People are slowly finding out that if they don’t need to get advice from a religious scholar – they can come to the team and talk to someone there instead.”

Women participate in a mental health training program for community members in Atlanta.

And then there’s the model of Muslim chaplains who serve in universities, hospitals, prisons and the military. Some also are being hired to serve as assistants to imams and other congregational leaders.

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This new referral initiative started here in September and is part of a growing menu of social services nationwide aimed at addressing the needs of American Muslims, which have never been stronger.

Sitting around a table in the windowless room, they talk for an hour, during which the therapist draws up a list of referrals to outside experts who can offer specialized help for marital conflict, children’s behavioral problems, depression, substance abuse or other issues.

Laird is working on a developing a 24-hour mental health hotline for Muslims living in Southern California and has been instrumental in several initiatives to extend culturally compatible mental health services to Muslims through education, treatment and referrals.

The Institute for Muslim Mental Health is compiling a directory of Muslim practitioners.

“There’s a lot of intergenerational trauma in our community – a lot of issues that come up that have gone unaddressed: depression, marital issues, suicide among youth, LGBT sexuality,” she said. “Our community is suffering.”

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