When we suffer from a physical illness, there are clinical manifestations and symptoms that can be readily treated and a course of action prescribed by medical professionals. But, in general, when it comes to mental health issues, where symptoms can be vague and even seeking treatment or therapy is still stigmatised and the diagnosis so value laden and judged mostly by others and often by the patient too, we fall short in our treatment and acceptance.

According to the World Health Organisation, about $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) is lost to the global economy each year as a direct result of mental health issues. Whether it be stress, anxiety, depression or a range of any other illnesses of the mind that require therapeutic, pharmaceutical or a combination of both treatments, mental health issues can really only be adequately treated in an effective and successful manner when we as a society are open and non-judgemental in our approaches.

With physical illnesses, symptoms are clearly defined; with mental health issues, the symptoms can be vague and much harder then to detect and respond too, either by individuals who are suffering, or from the broader medical community who often treat the purely physical manifestations of emotional and anxiety issues.

Each of us, as caring, emotional and rational human beings, have days when we’re not necessarily feeling the best, that there’s a mental fog, and we’re not firing on all four cylinders. That’s perfectly normal. But when those days become weeks and months, when there’s too much worry and too much stress, when the state of our minds takes control and interferes with our ability to function in our family or workplace settings — when life simply feels too much and overbearing and we simply check out mentally, then we need help. The reality is that many who are struggling with mental health issues are often unable to see what’s happening. It may take a physical illness to bring matters to a head, or the intervention of friends, colleagues or loved ones to prompt a course of action for a more positive outlook.

Health insurers are accommodating when it comes to providing coverage and treatment to patients. Physical exercise too, and initiatives such as Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s 30 minutes X 30 days’ programme are ideal ways to begin taking care of our mental as well as physical health. Talking and openness offer ways of raising issues and concerns, and performing self-assessment on mental health score cards is a practical first step. Together, we all can help and make life better.