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Mental Health and Flying

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Mental Health and Flying

Old 6th Oct 2023, 16:05
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Mental Health and Flying

Hi folks
I have a serious query about mental health and flying. Considering the last few years we have all been through, I can imagine mental illnesses wether short term or longterm and in some shape or form have come to light.

How does a medical examiner view a prospective pilot who has been treated for mental health in the past ? (First Class 1 medical)
Is it an absolute no (I can understand why) or is it investigated more to understand current fitness and ability?

It’s a serious career and a serious matter. Wondering if an individual would be seen in a positive light for taking control of a situation or struck off…

Aeromech93 is offline  
Old 7th Oct 2023, 21:23
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I think the 'mental health' problems we see since covid are genuine difficulties in people's lives, but previously known as life stresses. Real mental heath problems are not so common and much more serious. The difference is probably easily identified by a professional.
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Old 8th Oct 2023, 01:01
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Originally Posted by Capt Scribble
I think the 'mental health' problems we see since covid are genuine difficulties in people's lives, but previously known as life stresses. Real mental heath problems are not so common and much more serious. The difference is probably easily identified by a professional.
Delicately put!
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Old 28th Oct 2023, 12:42
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I was 2 weeks from graduating Army Flight school in 1987. My wife decided she could not see herself married to a guy who was married to flying. She split and I mentally crashed and attempted suicide. I am now 62 and no longer fly. From 1987 through 2003, I was hospitalized two more times for attempting to kill myself. I suffered - and continue to experience - depression. I NEVER EVER EVER EVER even thought about harming another human being. Crashing the aircraft I was flying NEVER CROSSED MY MIND!

In the early 1990's, I made earnest moves to get help and went through OK City and FAA Mental Health Doctors to get my 3rd class special issuance and eventually, a 1st class. Between then and now, I remarried, continued to fly both heli's and airplanes, completed an engineering degree, completed trooper school and became a Georgia State Trooper, adopted a newborn girl who is 19 and in Embry-Riddle Daytona, studying Aerospace Engineering. I have built experimental airplanes and helicopters and owned an FAA Certificated heli and a Piper Tomahawk. I have never failed a checkride, never scratched an aircraft I was flying, and carried a gun the entire time. Much of that 33 years, as a pilot and as a cop, I was taking an unreported antidepressant.

We have to do something in America to become able to identify those citizens that are a danger to others. I don't know the answer. The correct solution does not need to unduly focus on people like me that are not dangerous, but identify and break-the-chain of people who have mental health issues AND have been saying and posting weird disturbing things, and have been searching all over the internet for crazy stuff or joining violent internet groups. Those contemplating crashing planes full of people or cargo should never make it onto an aircraft, period!

Bryan
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Old 13th Nov 2023, 20:44
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Always said, the depressed throw themselves under a train, the mentally ill throw someone else under a train.
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Old 6th Dec 2023, 04:29
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Originally Posted by rarelyathome
Delicately put!
Respectfully, that's fairly accurate. There is a HUGE difference between long term mental health issues and short term stress related issues.
As relates to the Airman's Medical admittedly the issues on the serious side of the equation are sometimes extremely difficult to recognize without the airman offering up data needed for a proper decision to be made.
With lifestyles and livelihoods on the line pilots can become quite adept at "hiding" things they have determined might be disqualifying on a medical examination.
There really isn't (in my experience in professional aviation anyway) an easy answer to the question.
Basically for a large part what we have is an honor system coupled with a Doctor's discovery process as the medical is processed.
It's one of the real grey areas in aviation.
Dudley Henriques
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Old 7th Dec 2023, 18:54
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It’s a serious career and a serious matter. Wondering if an individual would be seen in a positive light for taking control of a situation or struck off…
That's unfortunately the crux of the issue. If you take control of the situation and seek the help needed for any situation (like we would for any other situation in aviation), there is a very real potential that you lose your medical for good, especially if medication is required. So, people hide their issues hoping that it will all work out. Thankfully, I've not had any issues, but I've helped other pilots seek help for instances of sim anxiety up to depression. So this is the basis for the rest of my post.

I have a very good relationship with my CAME. We're part of the same running group, so it means we get to take our conversations out of her office. She knows full well that pilots are no different than the average population group, so it is likely that 5 out of every 100 pilots she sees is suffering from some form of mental illness, depression included. Yet, she only has 5 to 10 minutes to gauge the pilot, all during a time when the pilot is already anxious about just being there. It's simply not enough time to expect a trained individual to identify the signs. She just has to accept that she's not seen the signs. We've talked about our shared desire for the industry to adopt a format similar to how diabetes is handled here in Canada.

We adopt a system where the loss of the medical is not lifelong. The medical, just like for diabetes, will be revoked for no less than 3 to 6 months, during which time you go get the help that is needed. If, after that time you are in a better position, you are awarded the medical back with whatever conditions are deemed necessary (for example, two-crew ops only). If you're placed on medication, then there may be further restrictions - just like diabetes. If the medication has undesirable side effects, then you'll get your medical back once you are no longer taking the medication and after a prescribed waiting period and assessment. Except in the most extreme cases, no pilot would ever be told they will never get their medical back. In addition, we develop a list of conditions that will not result in the medical being revoked at any time. One pilot I had the pleasure of working with was the nicest guy at work but had the shortest fuse at home. He didn't seek help for his temper because he thought once it got back to his CAME that he had "seen a shrink" he'd be done for. It cost him his marriage. Unfortunately, his thoughts about going for anger management training were unfounded but came from the same place we're discussing. So it's not just those with serious mental issues we can help, but those at the periphery who harbor the impression that everything is included.

I believe knowing that there is a path will help. Unfortunately, it's the not knowing that is driving many to not seek help. I know it's too simple, but it's better we start down a road than none at all.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 11:25
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This is a difficult issue and to go back to the original question: I don't think it's an absolute no at all, at least it should not be, but whether the situation you or someone else finds themselves in progresses along that route is dependant on many factors. I have never had to deal with this myself, so perhaps I'm not a good judge here, but as far as I know there are plenty of situations in this corner of Europe where mental health issues have been dealt with appropriately and medicals have been reinstated or retained. There appears to be more of a bias against discussing this with an AME on the US side of the pond, but I'm sure there are good and bad examples of situations on both sides.

The basis of the relationship between a licence holder and an AME is don't hold back any information. Be honest, be clear about what's troubling you and as you mentioned, I'm sure you will be seen in a positive light. At least, you should be. If you're part of a union, talk to them, see if they can offer any assistance throughout the process. They may be able to provide support, either legal or professional or both, and in the end they're on your side. Don't forget, so is the AME. You're both in it for the same reason: keeping air travel safe.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 16:34
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Originally Posted by Jhieminga
This is a difficult issue and to go back to the original question: I don't think it's an absolute no at all, at least it should not be, but whether the situation you or someone else finds themselves in progresses along that route is dependant on many factors. I have never had to deal with this myself, so perhaps I'm not a good judge here, but as far as I know there are plenty of situations in this corner of Europe where mental health issues have been dealt with appropriately and medicals have been reinstated or retained. There appears to be more of a bias against discussing this with an AME on the US side of the pond, but I'm sure there are good and bad examples of situations on both sides.

The basis of the relationship between a licence holder and an AME is don't hold back any information. Be honest, be clear about what's troubling you and as you mentioned, I'm sure you will be seen in a positive light. At least, you should be. If you're part of a union, talk to them, see if they can offer any assistance throughout the process. They may be able to provide support, either legal or professional or both, and in the end they're on your side. Don't forget, so is the AME. You're both in it for the same reason: keeping air travel safe.
I can only speak from the standpoint of the United States and after a lifetime in the professional pilot community here.
Naturally I'm only one opinion but I can truthfully say that the vast majority of the pilots I know and have been exposed to throughout my tenure view the relationship with the AME not as openly hostile but more in a kind of silent adversarial role. All live in a world where a single person, for reasoning actual or manufactured, can with the stroke of a pen alter the employment situation for a pilot.
Many pilots liken the medical certificate to a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads; something that goes with the career that can end everything in a heartbeat.
What I'm saying here is that there is a natural built in tendency for pilots to withhold and/or hide mental health issues and that one fact leaves the entire process involving pilots and the medical open and vulnerable.
It's not a good situation.
Dudley Henriques
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