Spirituality and Mental Health discussed at Yunus Emre Institute London

Young Scholars Seminar Series with UCL Psychiatry PhD candidate Merve Çetinkaya on the link between Spirituality and Mental Health.

Yunus Emre Institute London was delighted to organise another exciting Young Scholar Seminar Series talk, this time discussing “Spirituality and mental health: Islamic Spirituality and its effects on an individual’s well-being” on Thursday 16th June 2022 at 7 pm (UK Time) with UCL Psychiatry PhD candidate Merve Çetinkaya.  

The evening ended with a Q&A session with the speaker as well as traditional Turkish Refreshments served to the guests. 

Current research reveals the fascinating and intimate link between health and spirituality. Especially in contemporary societies, spirituality is seen to serve an important role in a person’s well-being, especially its support in dealing with major life events. This has become more pronounced as the world grapples with the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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This talk, based on the research of Merve Çetinkaya, Psychiatry PhD candidate and Postgraduate teaching assistant at UCL, explored the importance of spirituality to human well-being. Çetinkaya’s research focusses on the link between these two concepts with a special focus on Islamic Spiritual practices and mental well-being. Her studies at Yale, Kings College London and Ankara University for her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the fields of religious studies, Theology and Medicine as well as her experience in Muslim Mental health charity organisations in the UK and a Chaplaincy role in the hospital have all influenced her research.  

Starting the talk by introducing recent scholarly explorations on health and spirituality, Çetinkaya explored the findings of a unique qualitative study conducted among a group of Sufis during the Covid-19 pandemic regarding the effects of Sufi practices on their well-being. She explored what it means to be ‘spiritual’ both in generally and in the UK as well as its growth in popularity and links with mental health. Delving into, for example, ideas of being ‘spiritual but not religious’ and ‘believing and not belonging’, she stressed this question of spirituality being simultaneously an individual and a societal one.  

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Defining the core elements of mental well-being through the NHS’s own advice on achieving it, Çetinkaya weighed the steps of improving your wellbeing against the practicalities of Islamic spirituality. Pointing to the extent to which these overlapped, she expanded on her own research of Sufi groups and their mental health during Covid-19 by pointing to a number of testimonies she collected.  

As humans, it is natural for us to seek to improve our mental well-being and, in an increasingly digitalised and lonely world, it can be hard to find the inner resources to do so. Through this talk, the fully-booked audience saw the importance of the core tenants of what spirituality supplies and hopefully took home a little slice of inner peace along with the Turkish food served.  

For more information on the event and to view future events, please visit our website: https://yeelondon.org.uk/ or email at londra@yee.org.tr. 

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