What can I do if I’m having mental health problems?

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Have you recently felt tired, burned out, and discouraged? When your ability to perform and resilience dwindles, you can quickly get caught in a downward spiral mentally. Your health and wellbeing suffer as a result. Your zest for life fades and you run the risk of socially isolating yourself.

Do you suspect that you are having a crisis? Are your physical and psychological strength waning? Can you get back on your feet on your own and do something about it? The following checklists help you to identify the symptoms of depression, burnout, and other mental health problems. We also offer useful information and services for people suffering from mental illness. Take the psychological symptoms seriously at an early stage and take the first steps on the way to healing on your own.

We address the following questions: 

  1. What mental illnesses are there?
  2. What are the most common causes of mental illness?
  3. How do I notice if I have psychological problems?
  4. Can psychological problems cause physical pain?
  5. What self-help and treatment options do I have?
  6. What consequences will it have for me and my loved ones if I wait and do nothing?
  7. Am I insured against mental health problems in the case of illness?
  8. Can I prevent mental health problems?
  9. In short: The top four tips for people affected by mental illness


If you’re experiencing a mental health emergency, consult a doctor immediately, or contact the "Die Dargebotene Hand/La Main Tendue" organization at telephone number 143.

1. What mental illnesses are there?

Mental illnesses can take many forms and can affect each and every one of us. Depression and burnout are the most well known. However, there are also other types of mental illnesses. 

Mental illnesses:

  • Depression and bipolar disorder
  • Burnout
  • Dependency and addiction
  • Anxiety, phobias, panic, and compulsive disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders, e.g. anorexia and bulimia
  • Psychosis and schizophrenia

Approximately half of the people in Switzerland are affected at least once in their life by a psychological crisis. But the general public knows very little about the subject of mental illnesses, their symptoms, and treatment. People with mental illness fear being stigmatized because of false prejudices. Few seek the help of a doctor, even though mental illnesses such as depression and burnout are easily treatable – and many can recover.

2. What are the most common causes of mental illness?

Psychological problems often persist over an extended period of time and intensify gradually. In the case of depression, burnout, and other psychiatric disorders, individual sudden factors are seldom the cause; rather the affected persons often go through several phases which trigger psychological stress.

Causes for mental illness in different phases in life

Possible stress during studies, on the job, and at work:

  • Difficulties transitioning from school to an apprenticeship
  • Stresses when transitioning from vocational training to full-time work
  • Fear when transitioning from full-time work to retirement
  • Stresses in the workplace and in education/training: stress, bullying, pressure to perform/succeed
  • Job loss
  • Difficulties finding a job

Potential areas of tension in a relationship:

  • Leaving the parental home
  • Entering into a partnership
  • Discovering sexuality
  • Finding sexual identity
  • Starting a family
  • Loss of a key figure (for example through separation, divorce, death, or illness)

Possible difficulties in personal development:

  • Recognizing self-worth
  • Developing an identity
  • Discovering your body and self-image
  • Pressure to meet certain standards, triggered and manipulated by social media channels, for example

An aggravating cultural and social framework:

  • Multi-option society, i.e the choice of seemingly endless possibilities within society
  • Constant availability
  • Pressure to conform
  • Pressure to succeed
  • Pressure to perform

3. How do I notice if I have psychological problems?

Unfortunately, those afflicted by mental illness often recognize too late that they are mentally strained. They either ignore, repress, or misinterpret the initial warning signs. Often, it’s their family members, work colleagues, or friends who notice that the affected person has changed before they notice it themselves.

Loved ones actively addressing the matter with the person affected can help with early detection of psychological stress, which in turn increases their chances of recovery.

Most people experience a psychological crisis at least once in their life. It’s not always depression or another mental illness in the medical sense. Irrespective of the type and degree of the symptoms, you should therefore contact a doctor early on. By seeking professional help, you can prevent the depression from getting worse and turning into a severe illness.

Signs of a depressive state or mental stress

  • Sleep disorders
  • Apathy
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Social withdrawal
  • Rumination
  • Decreased attention span and concentration disorders

4. Can psychological problems cause physical pain?

Yes, they can and they even do it very often. If your mental wellbeing is severely hampered, this often also manifests itself physically. For example, a lot of stressed, or mentally impaired people complain first about headaches, pain, a feeling of tightness in their chest, or digestion problems. If the causes of the pain are not due to physical health issues, this is called a psychosomatic illness.

It is even possible for physical symptoms to actually occur, but that none of the examinations come up with an organic cause for the pain. This is known as a somatoform disorder.

Conversely, physical causes can also be at the root of mental illness. Chronic pain or a wound that takes a long time to heal also affect the emotional health of patients and have often led to depression.

Do you yourself notice the signs of a depression? Do you suffer from inexplicable pain? Then you should definitely make an appointment with your doctor or psychotherapist. Get informed about the next steps and treatment options.

5. What self-help and treatment options do I have?

You have noticed that you need professional help to treat your mental health issues? You want to be helped? We are proud of you – you have already achieved a lot and taken the first step to recovery. We would like to take this opportunity to offer assistance and provide answers below to the most frequently asked questions on the subject of mental illnesses and their treatment.

The most frequently asked questions about “mental illnesses and their treatment”: 

What can I do if I have symptoms of depression?

Reflect on your feelings, take the symptoms of depression seriously, and don’t wait too long with treatment. Get help from professionals you trust. Psychological disorders and everything in between right through to serious mental illness are treatable.

How do I find the courage to discuss my problem with a person I trust?

It feels good to talk about your concerns with someone. Talking about weaknesses takes strength and courage. Do you find it difficult to open up to a person who is close to you? One solution here could be to talk to a person you trust but who you have a bit of distance from.

How should I initiate the conversation so that I am taken seriously?

It’s best to talk openly and be yourself with the person you are talking with. Describe how you feel. It takes a lot of courage to seek dialog. And it is completely OK to say that you are nervous or don’t feel well.

When is it necessary to get help from a professional or help center?

As soon as your own resources don’t work or aren’t available, then you should consult an expert. You should also seek professional help if you have been in a depressed state for several weeks without any improvement, or if it has maybe even gotten worse. Find a therapist through Aepsy.

6. What consequences will it have for me and my loved ones if I wait and do nothing?

Depression responds similarly to physical symptoms that are treated too late or even not at all. The symptoms can get increasingly worse. It becomes more and more difficult to overcome them and to get help. The earlier you get advice and treatment, the better the outlook for a quick recovery after the diagnosis.

Not only those afflicted suffer under the mental illness, but also their loved ones. Friends, partnerships, and families are negatively affected. 

Children, in particular, suffer when a parent is not well. They increasingly grow to feel guilty for the despair of their mother or father. That’s why it’s important to involve children in an age-appropriate manner. You can find more information on how to do so from the Fachstelle Institut Kinderseele Schweiz (iks) (german; specialist help center for children).

7. Am I insured against mental health problems in the case of illness?

As with all illnesses, this question is very important. Psychological problems can ultimately become very costly because of therapy costs and time off work. But don't worry: It is highly likely that your insurance will cover a majority of the costs. For insurance purposes, a distinction must be made between “private” and “at the workplace.”


Depending on the type of psychological illness, the costs are covered by basic insurance, supplementary insurance of the health insurer, or must be paid for by the insured person. Medical psychotherapies – or therapies from a psychiatrist – are covered by basic insurance. The same came into effect for psychological psychotherapies (conducted by psychologists) on July 1, 2022, provided the therapy is prescribed by a doctor (for example, your general practitioner). Since there is still uncertainty regarding the price that can be invoiced for psychological psychotherapies, the model has not yet been implemented in all cantons. Get information from your therapist or your insurance about the costs covered.

If psychological psychotherapy is not prescribed by a doctor, the costs will be covered voluntary supplementary insurance depending on the insurance. Find out about your insurance coverage. For example, AXA covers up to 75% of non-medical psychotherapy in its supplementary insurance “Complet” (up to CHF 3,000 per year) and 75% with the product “Plus” (up to CHF 1,000 per year).

At the workplace:

The law states that, when staff are sick, employers must continue to pay their salaries for a certain period. In addition to a contractual continued salary payment agreement, the length of employment and the canton in which the business operates determine the actual length of the statutory obligation to make continued salary payments. This ranges from three weeks for employees in their first year of service to 46 weeks for long-serving employees. The Zurich, Bern, and Basel scales are used to calculate the actual length of time. This way, HR officers and insurance companies can inform your employer about how long the duration would be in your case.

8. Can I prevent mental health problems?

Yes, absolutely! It is important to take care of your own mental health. So strengthen your immune system, make sure you have a good work-life balance, and use your resources wisely. It can help you prevent illness and depression. And it can help you better manage stressful situations in life and stress as well as overcome phases of crisis.

How can I increase my mental wellbeing?

Stay socially active and maintain contact with people who do you good. Curiosity and learning new things will keep you fit mentally. Be creative and get regular exercise. Relaxation is just as important: Let yourself and your mind unwind every once and awhile. And, last but not least, believe in yourself and accept yourself as you are.

9. In short: The top four tips for people affected by mental illness

The experts of AXA and Pro Mente Sana advise the following: Don’t ignore the warning signs of psychological strain. Talk about it and get help right away. The sooner you get help, the better your chances of feeling better again soon.

  • Talk to a person you trust or a specialist about your mental wellbeing.
  • Don’t wait too long to get professional help.
  • Reduce your level of stress and do things that make you feel good.
  • Have patience – recovery takes time.

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