Things worth knowing about mental health

Here you can find information on mental health, loneliness, suicide, violence and addictive behaviour.

Mental health

Tel 143 records the topic «mental suffering» in an own category in its statistics. Together with «coping with everyday life» and «loneliness», this topic has been among the top 3 for years, and the trend is increasing. Important: Tel 143 recognises that not all people have the courage or strength to go to a therapist. But people with severe mental illness should definitely seek medical help.

What has an impact

Mental illness occurs at every stage of life and in all walks of life. Many factors affect mental health – some we can influence, others we cannot. 

  • Social environment: Strong social ties and supportive relationships with family, friends and communities contribute significantly to mental health.
  • Life experiences: Positive life experiences, such as a successful education, career achievements and personal fulfilment, strengthen mental health. Childhood trauma, abuse, losses and other stressful life events can increase the risk of mental illness.
  • Predisposition: Genetic predisposition can increase susceptibility to certain mental illnesses. In particular, dysregulated neurotransmitter and hormone regulation may lead to the development of mental disorders.
  • Environmental factors: Stress-free living conditions, comfortable housing, access to education, meaningful employment opportunities and economic stability can positively influence mental health. 
  • Lifestyle and behaviours: A healthy lifestyle consisting of a balanced diet, physical activity, adequate sleep and avoidance of risky behaviour helps to promote mental health.
  • Coping strategies: The ability to cope with stress and regulate one’s own emotions is crucial for maintaining mental health.

Recognised facts

Unfortunately, those who suffer mentally or are ill are often stigmatised. Education is important:

  • Mental health today is seen in 2 dimensions: mental wellbeing and mental health, and these are interlinked. This means that people with a mental illness can experience well-being. And that people can suffer greatly mentally without being mentally ill. 
  • Signs of mental health include, for example, the experience of self-efficacy, a stable identity, meaning in life, optimism, and energy. More than three quarters of the Swiss population feel both mentally healthy and happy.
  • People who are mentally healthy are able to cope well with life’s challenges. They are able to maintain healthy relationships, regulate emotions and maintain a positive self-perception.
  • Mental illnesses are manifold. They range from eating and anxiety disorders to depression, psychoses and other severe symptoms. As a rule, women and young people are affected more often than other population groups.
  • In Switzerland, mental illnesses are among the most widespread diseases. In the course of the Corona pandemic, teenagers and young adults in particular suffered psychologically, and especially young women.
  • Most mental illnesses are curable. It is important that the diagnosis is made in time and the right treatment is found.
  • The importance of mental health increased significantly during the Corona pandemic. Many parliamentary initiatives were submitted on this topic. Since July 2022, the costs of psychotherapy prescribed by a doctor are covered by the basic insurance.

Activities and actors

In mental health, the Confederation primarily performs coordination tasks. First and foremost, it’s the cantons that are responsible for the promotion of mental health and health care. They implement measures to promote mental health within the framework of the cantonal action programmes. Professional associations and NGOs are also important actors in this field.

The Swiss Health Promotion Foundation is an important link between the Confederation, the cantons and NGOs. It promotes projects such as the «How are you?» campaign and coordinates the activities of the actors through the «Mental Health Network Switzerland». Other NGOs such as Pro Mente Sana or Pro Juventute are also committed to destigmatising mental health problems and supporting people with mental impairments. In 2019, a Mad Pride was held in Switzerland for the first time. This parade helps to raise public awareness of the issue of mental health and to make political demands. 

Important links

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Tel 143 records the topic of loneliness in an own category in its statistics. Many who call are ashamed that they have no one to talk to. It is rare for callers to admit being lonely. Important: Tel 143 also accompanies people over a longer period of time – it is better to talk «about it» than to despair «about it».

Loneliness affects people of all ages and can have various causes. It has a negative effect on the psyche and physical health.

Loneliness and aloneness

It is important to distinguish loneliness from being alone:

  • Loneliness: This feeling arises when someone has a need for social closeness and connection, but this is not met. The person feels separated from others even when surrounded by other people. 
  • Aloneness: This is about consciously and intentionally withdrawing into nature, a place of strength or one’s own four walls. Being alone can have positive effects, e.g. for self-reflection or relaxation.

Recognised facts

The topic of loneliness is heavily tabooed. Destigmatisation is important:

  • Loneliness is experienced very individually. Various factors influence whether someone feels lonely: their own personality, life circumstances and the social network.
  • Loneliness increases the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts
  • Loneliness can increase physical suffering as it is linked to heart problems, strokes, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
  • Particularly affected are:
    • Elderly people: They often suffer from the loss of life partners, friends and family members as well as mobility restrictions.
    • People with health issues: People with limited mobility or chronic illnesses have less opportunity to maintain social contacts.
    • People with a migration background: Immigrants and asylum seekers may have difficulties settling in and building social bonds due to cultural differences and language barriers.
    • Young adults and students: Despite social media, young people can suffer from loneliness in transitional phases such as studying or starting a career.
    • People in stressful life situations: Personal crises such as unemployment, divorce or loss of a loved one can lead to loneliness.

Activities and actors

In Switzerland, various organisations, government agencies and communities are committed to combating social isolation and promoting integration. Increasingly, the importance of psychological support is also being recognised.


Tel 143 has a lot of experience in dealing with suicidal people. However, the talks are not always about ending one’s own life. Sometimes support is needed in processing suicide among relatives or acquaintances or in caring for a suicidal person. Important: Tel 143 is committed to preventing suicide, but is not «against suicide on principle».

Suicide is a serious and complex issue. Male teenagers and retired men have a significantly greater risk of dying by suicide than females. Among the latter, the number of suicide attempts is higher.

What has an impact

Various situations can lead people to want to end their lives:

  • Severe mental illness: Around 90% of suicides are committed by people suffering from a severe mental illness. People suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis or borderline have a greatly increased risk. 
  • Acute stress situation: In around 10% of cases, suicide is considered as a way out of acute stress. This can be caused by traumatic events, serious personal losses, financial crises or interpersonal conflicts. 
  • Diagnosis of a serious or incurable illness: Switzerland is one of the few countries that has legalised assisted suicide. This allows people with serious or incurable diseases to end their lives legally and with medical assistance. 

Recognised facts

There is a great need for education on the subject of suicide:

  • Suicide can be prevented. Most people with suicidal intentions do not want to die. They simply do not want to live with pain and suffering.
  • People who are thinking about suicide often show changed behaviour. They withdraw from friends and usual activities, give away important things, or talk more about death and dying. 
  • Open communication about suicidal thoughts can save lives. Talking to a person about possible suicidal thoughts is better than keeping silent. An open conversation does not increase the likelihood of somenone attempting suicide.
  • Many people with a mental illness do not show suicidal behaviour. Not all people who take their own lives are mentally ill.
  • The removal of taboos surrounding mental illness and access to appropriate treatment are crucial factors in the fight against suicide.

Activities and actors

Switzerland has taken a number of measures in recent years to promote the mental health of the population and to prevent suicides. To this end, there are numerous organisations that offer support, counselling and resources for people in crisis situations. This has led to a constant decrease in the suicide rate over the last 30 years.

As far as assisted suicide is concerned, Switzerland has enacted strict laws and regulations to ensure that euthanasia takes place in a controlled and transparent environment. The trend here is upwards.


Tel 143 records the three forms of violence in a common category in its statistics. According to many years of experience, about 90% of the cases involve domestic violence. This is understood to mean physical, psychological or sexual violence within the family or in a current or dissolved couple relationship. Important: Tel 143 is not only there for victims, but also for perpetrators, fellow victims and witnesses.

Violence affects all genders, age groups and social classes. It ranges from covert teasing in the schoolyard, sexist jokes at work, to physical assaults.

Different forms of violence

In general, three forms of violence are distinguished:

  • Sexualised violence: this is about sexual abuse and rape. It also includes lewd or intrusive looks, unwanted comments and touching, «dirty» jokes, and sexist remarks.
  • Psychological violence: this includes acts such as insulting, humiliating, degrading, shouting at and threatening. It is also about creating feelings of guilt, controlling or prohibiting family or outside contacts, and confiscating wages.
  • Physical violence: this is the most obvious, though not the most frequent form of violence. Physical violence ranges from physical assaults such as slapping, pushing, shaking, biting, injury with a weapon, and beating to homicide. 

Recognised facts

Violence of any kind cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. It undermines fundamental principles of respect and peaceful coexistence. Children are protected by the UN International Convention on the Rights of the Child. This states that violence against children, especially as an educational measure, is not permissible. Switzerland also implements this convention.


Activities and actors

The Swiss government and various organisations are actively working to raise awareness of the issue. The Victim Assistance Act aims to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. However, much remains to be done to break the culture of silence and encourage victims to come forward. In many cantons, Tel 143 – Heart2heart works together with the victim support centres and takes over the function of a first contact point outside office hours.

Addiction and addictive behaviour

Tel 143 records the topic of addictive behaviour in its statistics but does not distinguish between substance-related addiction and behavioural addiction. The conversations evolve around suffering from addiction and finding the courage to seek professional help. Important: People affected by addiction should be supported by professionals, because Tel 143 is not a substitute for therapy.

The abuse of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and behavioural addictions as well as excessive internet use, shopping addiction or gambling affects people of any age or social background.

Risk-based addictive behaviour

Addictive behaviour is usually classified according to risk of harm to oneself or others: 

  • Low-risk behaviour: Responsible use of psychoactive substances and behaviour that is safe for the person concerned and their environment.
  • Risky behaviour: Consuming or engaging in behaviours that are potentially harmful. Three main types of behaviour are described:
    • Excessive behaviour: Excessive and often episodic repetition of a potentially harmful activity or consumption of large amounts of psychoactive substances in a short period of time, such as excessive gambling or binge drinking.
    • Chronic behaviour: Regular consumption or repeated behaviour over a longer period of time. This can cause damage in the long term, e.g. by permanently taking medication without a doctor’s prescription or daily alcohol consumption.
    • Situationally inappropriate behaviour: Use of psychoactive substances in situations that may lead to endangering oneself or others. Examples are driving under the influence of alcohol, consumption during pregnancy or gambling despite existing debts.

Recognised facts

The topic of addiction received a lot of attention in the 1980s due to the open drug scene in Zurich. Since then, Swiss drug policy has been based on four pillars: prevention, therapy, harm reduction and repression.

  • From a medical point of view, addiction is a disease. Addiction is shaped by individual predispositions, but also by social influences. 
  • Addiction is characterised by compulsive behaviour that continues despite serious health damage and social consequences.
  • People who display high-risk addictive behaviour need professional support. Medical treatment or hospitalisation may be indicated.

Activities and actors

The Swiss government and various organisations have taken steps to raise awareness of addiction problems and promote prevention. An extensive network of counselling centres, clinics and self-help groups is available. Tel 143 – Heart2heart maintains contact with various addiction counselling centres and assumes the function of a first contact point for gambling addicts in Geneva, for example.