A record 4.5 per cent of the Swiss population are receiving treatment for psychiatric disorders, according to a study by the Swiss Health Observatory.
Twice as many women as men seek help from a psychiatrist.
Around 271,000 people received psychiatric treatment in Switzerland in 2002 – an increase of 0.4 per cent on 1997, according to the study published by the Federal Statistics Office on Monday.
The increase was mainly the result of more women seeking help for mental disorders, said Peter Meyer, head of the observatory.
“Psychiatric disorders have been a taboo in society, but this is changing. The reason why more women than men get help is down to traditional role models. It is more acceptable for women to show a weakness,” Meyer told swissinfo.
He added that men more often resorted to drugs, alcohol and violence to deal with their problems rather than seeking professional help.
“Women have always sought help more readily than men. They admit feelings and emotions more than men. That’s the same across Europe,” said Hans Kurt, president of the Swiss Association for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
Kurt said he noticed that men often consult psychiatrists after being told to do so by their wives or their employers.
The survey also showed that a higher proportion of elderly people were being admitted to psychiatric institutions.
Meyer attributes this finding to a general unease among the elderly about psychiatry and a reluctance to seek assistance at an early stage of mental illness.
“As a result, people are often so ill when they finally consult doctors that it is difficult to treat them outside a clinic,“ he added.
Meyer said the findings were particularly relevant as the number of elderly people in need of psychiatric care was certain to grow in the near future.
But the overall results were not seen as a cause for alarm by the study’s authors.
“You could have expected much higher figures,” said Meyer.
However, he cautioned that there were probably many more people with mental disorders who didn’t seek help.
Meyer also noted that the situation in Switzerland was similar to that found in other countries.
“Industrialised countries with a high proportion of well-educated people and a population in an urban environment tend to have a high rate of people seeking psychiatric help,” he said.
Not the full picture
Hans Kurt agreed that the figures were unlikely to give the full picture.
“According to the World Health Organization, about 25 per cent of the population of every country suffer from mental problems,” he said.
“Be it strong emotional reactions after the death of a friend or a family member or other mental disorders. Many go and see a psychologist and pay the bill themselves. Only a fraction of those who suffer consult a psychiatrist.”
The survey found that nearly one in three admissions to a psychiatric clinic in Switzerland was involuntary.
The costs for treatment by a psychiatrist, which is covered by mandatory health insurance, rose by 15 per cent to SFr354 million ($277 million) between 1997 and 2002.
At the same time, the costs for treatment in clinics rose by 18 per cent to SFr568 million.
Twice as many women as men sought help from a psychiatrist in Switzerland between 1997 and 2002.
The costs for treatment by psychiatric experts, paid for by the mandatory health insurance, rose by 15% to SFr354 million.
The costs for treatment in clinics rose by 18% to SFr568 million.
Around 270,000 people in Switzerland receive psychiatric treatment.
4.5% of those over 15 are being treated for mental disorders.
Women make up 6%, while men account for 2.9% of the cases.