Data from Austrian health insurance companies show that there are around 900,000 claims for mental health related illnesses a year, according to the Austrian Press Agency.
"Many international studies show that about a third of the population suffers from mental illness. Depression and anxiety disorders alone affect around 1.7 million people in Austria," Stephan Doering, head of the Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at Vienna’s Medical University said.
He added that only one in six people who need psychotherapy are able to get publicly funded treatment.
Austria has a two-tier health care system in which virtually all people receive publicly funded care, but also have the option to purchase supplementary private health insurance.
According to the Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions there are just under 100 psychiatrists who provide publicly funded treatment in Austria – and only 20 in the capital, Vienna.
Maria-Anna Pleischl, president of the Austrian Association for Psychotherapy (ÖBVP) said that "expenditure for psychotropic medication costs up to €250 million – but the healthcare system only pays for 35,000 people to receive psychotherapy.”
One hour of therapy costs around €90. In Austria’s western states the healthcare system covers €70 of this, and in Vienna only €47 – meaning patients have to pay the rest themselves. Some patients also have to wait months for an appointment.
Doering said that there is indisputable scientific evidence that psychotherapy is highly effective in treating mental illness, but that Austria is lagging behind countries like Germany and Switzerland when it comes to recognising this.
"In Germany psychotherapy is fully financed by health insurance – and there is provision for two percent of the population to be treated. In Austria only 0.8 percent can get treatment,” he said.