Mental health isn't just the absence of mental illness. It extends to a more holistic spectrum of emotional and social well being, and affects how we think, feel, and act. To raise awareness of mental health issues globally and mobilise efforts around it, World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year. This year's theme highlights the urgency to make quality mental health care a reality for all.

The mind is shaped by all the experiences, ideas, and thoughts to which it is exposed. Although its been 18 months since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, some people are still struggling to return to a semblance of normality. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear have triggered mental health conditions or exacerbated existing ones. Frontline workers, students, and people living alone have been most affected.

As the World Health Organization has stated, close to one billion people have a mental health condition, and anyone, anywhere, can be affected. There is no single cause for these conditions - they are brought on by a mixture of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

In various parts of the world, getting treatment for physical problems is given top priority. Still, due to limited finances and lack of awareness, mental health issues often take a back seat. People sometimes consider these to be taboo. They openly discuss minor colds and ailments but are reluctant to share the depression or anxiety symptoms they might be experiencing. Although being as frequent as the common cold, mental illnesses are rarely discussed, diagnosed, and treated.

“People with a history of psychiatric conditions are more prone to mental health issues, but with effective treatments and social support, their suffering can be alleviated,” said Dr Karishma from India.

One such patient treated by her was Ali. Panic disorder was already a concern for Ali. During the pandemic, he had an episode of fever and cough, for which he was provided appropriate medications. But as he had a predisposition factor, it made him vulnerable to the virus and triggered anxiety in him. The excessive consumption of negative news on pandemic disruption added to the stress and caused panic attacks and breathlessness. With the help of Dr Karishma's continued treatment, Ali was able to control his anxiety and better function in day-to-day life.

Depression is thought to be the most common mental health condition. Anyone who has gone through an adverse life event such as unemployment, bereavement, or childhood trauma, is more likely to develop depression. There are effective treatments available for most people with depression. One such case was related to that of Rahil's mother.

Rahil consulted Dr Karishma after his father's demise during the pandemic. The loss of a loved one is among the most traumatic events in a person's life. His mother's grief persistently increased, resulting in sleeplessness and later to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). The isolation during the pandemic made her lose touch with her relatives, and she began to lose the will to live, even having suicidal thoughts. After regular consultations, a course of medication, and follow-up calls, doctors observed that she was treading a more stable path.

Therapy can often help to gain a deeper insight into our difficulties and help us grow and achieve our full potential. When in need, one might consider reaching out to a trained professional, without feeling any burden of judgment. All around the world, taboos are being broken as people are speaking up and sharing their experiences with mental health conditions.

Recovery from mental issues can be thought of as a gradual process. Make sure you talk to somebody you feel close to, somebody you can confide in, a family member, relative, or close friend. We all face significant difficulties at some point in our lives. Being aware of the issues and getting support when needed, along with a sprinkling of hope and positivity is the key to a healthy mind.