Mentally ill people tell their stories

Mental disorders are some of the most common illnesses in Switzerland. According to the Swiss Health Observatory, some 17 percent of the population suffers from one or more mental disorders. Four sufferers talk about their illness, how they cope with it and what is helping them to recover. They hope that their stories will encourage others.

Conny Grossenbacher (52), innkeeper, diagnosis: Panic attacks

“The first panic attack came out of the blue, fifteen years ago: difficulty in breathing, chest tightness, racing heart, sweating. The result for the ECG test at the emergency service: normal. The same diagnosis for the second attack. Physically, everything was fine, but the attacks didn't stop. They happened daily. In private I withdrew more and more. An acquaintance suggested going to the Centre for the Treatment of Anxiety and Depression in Zurich (ZADZ). I was shocked by the idea that I could have a mental disorder. I had both feet on the ground! Fortunately I could immediately start with therapy. The sessions and medication helped me. I learned how to cope with the attacks and how important it is to take time out – going for a ride on a motorbike, reading a book, listening to music. The reasons for the attacks could not be clearly established. Maybe it was stress. Now, when an attack is coming I take a deep breath. I know now that it is not life-threatening.”

(only in German)

Hans Schmied (56), former hotelier, diagnosis: Post-traumatic stress disorder

“Before the accident in 2003 I was a hotelier. I knew what I wanted and was active in politics. I was a man of action. After the accident in the tunnel – when two semitrailer trucks collided with my car and I suffered mortal fear – everything changed: nightmares, anxiety, shivering, racing heart, sluggish libido, helplessness and physical pain overshadowed my life. I had to sell the hotel. I no longer enjoyed life. I ended up in the clinic eleven times with depression and suicidal thoughts. I feel much more stable today. This is largely because of recovery therapy, which focuses on your own strengths. This motivated me so much that the former man of action made his appearance again: I’m currently doing the peer training course so that I can help other mentally ill people to recover. I like to go fishing to recharge my own batteries. It’s not important to catch anything. It’s simply good to be outside in nature.”

(only in German)

Silvie Hofmann (38), bank employee, diagnosis: Obsessive-compulsive disorder with depression

“Today I sing in a gospel choir, I read, bake and even go to open air concerts. I now do everything that makes me happy. This wasn't always the case. Before, my compulsions overshadowed my life to such an extent that I didn't know the word leisure time. For many years I have been suffering from different obsessive-compulsive disorders, one of which is obsessional washing. I often stayed under the shower until there was no more hot water left. Outpatient behaviour therapy helped me. I was confronted by everything that made me fear being dirty and triggered obsessive behaviour. Such as dog faeces. By picking up the dog faeces with a plastic bag I learned that I won’t get dirty myself. In addition to the therapy, my sense of humour and openness towards this taboo topic helped me. I’m fine now. I can cope with the illness. I’m proud to have come this far.”

(only in German)

JÜRG B.* (31), nurse, diagnosis: Drug addiction

"In June, I had the first four weeks of withdrawal behind me. It was the first time and will also be the last time. During therapy I rediscovered painting. Except for my wife, nobody knew about my addiction, which started when I was twenty. Like many other drug addicts I always worked and functioned well in society. My world collapsed when I lost my job because I stole medication for my own use. Revealing my addiction was a giant step. It was just as difficult for me to accept help. It gives me strength that everybody is now showing me understanding."

Zeichnung Jürg B.

Jürg B. painted these pictures during his treatment in the drug rehabilitation clinic.

*Name changed


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