Panic attacks have dominated the life of 20-year-old Dario Da Silva for years. He has regained his courage after his stay at the Zugersee Clinic in Oberwil.
The young man arrives at the railway station and looks around curiously. He looks like any other 20-year-old, casually dressed and chatty. Without thinking long, he decides on a cosy café near the Rotkreuz station and lights a cigarette. He walks casually across the street and is not afraid to talk about his story, even with people he doesn't know. He has a lot to tell. No one would suspect that it took him a great deal of courage to take the train to the agreed meeting point.
Dario Da Silva, who comes from Nidwalden, has been suffering from a panic and anxiety disorder for about three years, and was staying at the Zugersee Clinic in Oberwil until a few weeks ago. After a long period of suffering, he decided, together with his therapist and his father, to volunteer to enter the ward for young adults and to finally get the help he so desperately needed. This acute ward has been offering basic psychiatric care for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 at the clinic in Oberwil since December 2019 (we reported).
"Even the journey from Stans to Oberwil for a get-to-know-you meeting was incredibly difficult for me at that time. My father had to stop the car several times because I felt suffocated. Even three sedative tablets couldn't calm me down," recalls Da Silva. When they reached Gisikon-Root, he said he wanted to go back, because he couldn't stand it anymore. But the doctor on the phone advised the father to simply continue on to Oberwil. "Once there, I felt totally relieved and proud that I hadn’t changed my mind," says the trainee vehicle builder.
Dario Da Silva can again lead a life without fear, thanks to his stay in the Zugersee psychiatric hospital.
After a few discussions, Da Silva was able to move into a room at the Zugersee clinic after two weeks. He chose the clinic in Zug because he wanted to keep a certain distance from home, and because he had heard good things about the clinic. The Oberwil Psychiatry Clinic belongs to the Triaplus AG , whose catchment area includes the cantons of Uri and Schwyz, as well as Zug.
Working or leaving the house was impossible
After a week of acclimatization and initial sleeping difficulties at the new location, he slowly got used to it and even began to make friends. "We talked a lot in a group of about 14 people, did occupational therapy, and had individual therapy sessions with the psychologists. Everyone was very nice and understanding," said Dario Da Silva. He said that it did him good to be able to talk to other people who has similar problems, and to feel understood. "I also talked to my parents and friends about my feelings, of course, but it's something else when the other person has also gone through the same things," says Da Silva.
He was given antidepressants, and, over time, had to face his fears accompanied by a therapist. "We went out for a walk or took the bus, which caused me to have panic attacks again and again." But he had the will to fight. He also knew that he would only be able to become healthy again if he faced these fears. So he took the opportunity, and actively participated in all therapy on offer.
This would have been impossible for him only a few weeks before: "I had panic attacks and, if I didn't have one, I lived in fear of the next attack. It was a vicious circle." Until he finally couldn’t leave the house, and even had to postpone his apprenticeship as a vehicle builder. "I was angry and sad about it. I wanted to work, or to go out with colleagues, but I just couldn't." His illness began about three years ago, with panic attacks that could last up to half an hour. "A circle of thoughts can arise from a single arbitrary thought. I feel heat spreading throughout my body, and I feel a complete loss of control," explains Dario Da Silva. This is followed by the feeling of not having to breathe, or of even dying.
"It feels like you're constantly exposed to danger. But this danger is not real."
He wants to encourage others through his story
After years of internal struggle, he was glad to have been hospitalised. In the meantime, the 20-year-old is now working three days a week in the company where he obtained his training, and wants to complete his apprenticeship. Despite his hands shaking as a side-effect of the antidepressant, and feelings of distress on public transport and occasional, mild panic attacks, he can master his life again. "I even take the train to Schwyz to my new girlfriend. She is a very outgoing and positive person. That's very good for me," says Da Silva proudly. He had also got to know a friend from Hünenberg while in the clinic, whom he meets regularly.
He doesn’t want to remain silent about his illness, but rather to motivate other sufferers: "Through my story, I want to encourage others to get help. No one can help it if they suddenly become ill, and they certainly don't have to be ashamed of it." He even plans to go on holiday somewhere outside Switzerland next year. "This will be my next major confrontation with myself," he says proudly.
Further information on the station for young adults in Oberwil can be found at www.triaplus.ch, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phoning 041 726 33 00.
New ward for psychosis patients in Oberwil from July
From July onwards, a new psychosis unit will be put into operation at the Zugersee Clinic. "When treatment teams repeatedly treat patients with the same diagnosis, more competence and routine develops, which promises a better quality of treatment," says Chief Physician Josef Jenewein. Around 18 new inpatient places with four competent therapeutic specialists will be made available to patients, most of whom suffer from schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is the most common diagnostic group with psychotic symptoms. These patients need therapy that is tailored to them," explains Philipp Bohny, Head of the Acute and General Psychiatry Treatment Centre. Schizophrenic people tend to see things, or hear voices that are not there. "With depression patients, for example, you can usually work more close to everyday life. But with psychosis patients, on the other hand, you must first rebuild the reference to reality, or correct those parts that have been distorted by delusional symptoms," explains Bohny.
Building trust is important with psychosis patients
There should be no changes of therapists and caregivers on the psychosis ward, as psychosis patients are dependent on having constant contact persons. This is important for confidence-building, and thereby a psychotherapeutic basis. A protected acute area with a calmer and controlled environment and an open, guided and rehabilitatively oriented area on the station are planned. "In the acute phase of psychotic disorders, sufferers are often frightened, restless or irritable. We therefore often have to protect them so that they cannot get hurt, but also leave them the possibility of withdrawing in case of overstimulation," says Bohny. An average stay would be about four to five weeks. "The goal is not always a quick and complete cure, but that patients can be treated on an outpatient basis, and take their medication on their own responsibility," says Jenewein. Medication and other therapeutic services would largely make for a normal everyday life possible.