What should you do if you have a mental health problem? What distinguishes a stress from a disorder? What is the difference between psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry? Here you will find answers to general questions on the subject of the psyche.
Introductory video of the Counselling Centre
Watch our video on the subject as an introduction:
We are probably all familiar with phases in which we are not doing so well psychologically. When, for example, we are less motivated, depressed, worried or generally don't feel at ease with ourselves. Not everyone reacts in exactly the same way to such states. Our way of dealing with psychological stress differs depending on our previous history, experiences and available resources. In addition, it depends very much on how often and for how long such phases last.
Being psychologically stressed does not have to mean suffering from a mental disorder. It is important to take the symptoms seriously and to take good care of yourself. It is often helpful and sensible to seek support in good time or to do something for your well-being or mental health before the symptoms get worse. The more time passes, the greater the obstacle to accepting help.
In surveys, around a quarter of all students state that they suffer from psychological difficulties. Often these are stresses such as:
- performance pressure
- postponing work/study ( referred to as procrastination)
- fear of failure/exams
- reduced self-confidence and self-esteem
- depressive moods
- difficulties with motivation
- fears about the future
- conflicts with parents, flatmates and partners
- stress due to part-time job and studies
- loneliness/lack of social contacts
In Switzerland, one in four employees takes sick leave at least once during their working life due to mental stress.
Persistent mental stress can result in a mental disorder, such as a depressive episode, panic and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, etc.
What should you do if you have a mental health problem?
If you are in an acute crisis, we advise you to consult our Crisis situation webpage. Do not hesitate to seek professional help quickly:
We speak of a «crisis» when our mental equilibrium is upset due to stressful events and life circumstances and we are overwhelmed with coping with them (according to Caplan, 1964 & Cullberg, 1978).
- Follow a regular daily structure. This may be particularly important depending on the type of stress and personality.
- Give yourself a short time-out when a stress becomes too great. This may or may not involve a complete change of scenery. Often it is enough to consciously pursue an activity that gives you pleasure or is good for you.
- Find one or more suitable methods to strengthen your well-being. Please refer to our extensive suggestions for self-care on our webpage «Strengthen your well-being»:
- If necessary, check whether you can postpone one or more deadlines in your studies (e.g. an exam date) or at work. This can be a significant relief if additional stress seems unmanageable. Please also see our webpage on avoiding stress:
- Talk about your situation with someone in your personal social circle whom you trust and with whom you feel safe. In most cases, being able to express your thoughts and worries and to formulate them in concrete terms can have a relieving effect. Feedback from those around you can also be helpful.
- Talk to your general practitioner about a possible sick leave. This can be an important self-protection measure, for example, in the case of imminent burnout, bullying or another intense stress situation.
- Take advantage of a free counselling session with us to develop suitable coping strategies tailored to your individual situation.
- Set yourself more boundaries and dare to say «no» sometimes. Saying «no» to someone means saying «yes» to yourself at the same time.
- Prioritise your tasks (even more) and delegate them at least partially to other people. Let our YouTube video on the topic of task prioritisation inspire you:
- Try to discuss your stressful situation and possible solution strategies with your supervisor or team.
- Especially if a discussion at the workplace seems difficult or not possible: Take advantage of free counselling or – in the case of a conflict/bullying situation – mediation with us (please also note the links below to our corresponding offer). Or discuss your situation with a specialist from the HR department and/or another trusted person.
- In the case of prolonged stressful situations, consider, for example, a change in the distribution of tasks within the team, an adjustment of the job description, a reduction in the workload, unpaid leave or, if necessary, a change of job.
Stigmas and myths
There are still many stigmas surrounding mental health problems or disorders and people affected by them. We attempt here to dispel some of these myths and set them against the science-based facts.
Myth: Only weak people become mentally ill.
Fact: A mental disorder can affect anyone – albeit with varying degrees of likelihood. Many people who develop a mental disorder would never have thought before that they could be affected by it themselves.
Myth: Psychological disorders are rare.
Fact: One in every two people in Switzerland will develop a diagnosable psychological disorder at least once in their lifetime. This figure is astonishing, not least because there is still a strong taboo on psychological disorders.
Myth: Once ill, always ill.
Fact: There are indeed people who develop a chronic psychological disorder, but very many people overcome their psychological disorder for good.
Myth: Psychological disorders only develop in later adulthood.
Fact: Most people develop a psychological disorder before the age of 20.
Myth: After a mental illness, things never get back to being as good as they used to be.
Fact: There are indeed people who do not get back to the same quality of life they had before the psychological disorder. However, many people change their lives during therapy in such a way that their quality of life actually improves compared to before.
Myth: Surely everyone is depressed from time to time?
Fact: This myth shows how much depression is misunderstood and how difficult it is to understand the immense suffering of those affected. A depressive disorder is far worse than feeling sad for a few days.
Myth: Depressed people should just try harder to pull themselves together.
Fact: The difficult thing about a depressive disorder is that you can't pull yourself together. This may be difficult for people without a depressive disorder to comprehend.
Myth: People who talk about death and suicide are not really planning to kill themselves.
Fact: 75% of people who commit suicide have announced the act beforehand (45% verbally). In addition, suicide is often preceded by a number of warning signals. A suicidal announcement or indications of suicidal tendencies must ALWAYS be taken seriously.
Myth: If you stop someone from committing suicide today, she or he will simply kill themselves the next day.
Fact: Most people who are stopped from suicide do not kill themselves later on. The suicidal mode usually lasts only a few hours to a few days.
Myth: If you talk to people about a suspected suicidal tendency, you will only make them think about taking their own lives.
Fact: Someone who is not suicidal will not become suicidal if the subject is brought up. People who are suicidal often rely on being spoken to about it by others. This is also because most suicidal people do not confide in anyone, are ashamed, do not want to be a burden to anyone or assume that they cannot be helped anyway.
Myth: Drugs change your personality and make you addicted.
Fact: There are indeed some medicines that can be addictive. These must be used with caution. However, the majority of medicines are not addictive. Medication can help with more severe psychological problems or disorders, protect the personality and balance out an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Good to know
Our team consists of psychologists from different disciplines, from the fields of study and career counselling as well as psychotherapy.
Psychologists have completed a five-year psychology degree. During their Master's degree, they have (for the most part) specialised in one area, e.g. clinical and health psychology, social psychology, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, occupational and organisational psychology, etc.
Many psychologists who have specialised in clinical and health psychology go on to complete part-time further training to become psychotherapists (again, there are different types of therapy/schools).
Psychiatrists have studied human medicine for six years and then complete in-service training to become medical specialists in psychiatry and psychotherapy.
- Because of his or her medical background, a psychiatrist also prescribes psychotropic drugs if necessary and desired.
- Psychotherapists are not allowed to do this.
At the moment, only psychologists and psychotherapists who are employed by psychiatrists or who work in clinical facilities (outpatient clinics and psychiatric hospitals) can bill their services through the compulsory basic health insurance. The corresponding standard insurance benefit from statutory health insurance is called «delegated psychotherapy».
Self-employed psychotherapists often bill via supplementary insurance. A session (50-60 minutes) usually costs between CHF 120 and 180.
The Universities of Bern Counselling Centre offers its psychological counselling services free of charge to students and employees of the universities of Bern on behalf of the Canton of Bern.
Psychological problems still taboo
«Sick Of Silence» enables young people who have been thwarted by fate to have their say. Not everyone dares to speak openly about their personal fate. These people are given a voice in the following podcasts and videos.
- SRF – Rehmann S.O.S. – Sick of Silence (in German)