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Suicide

Old 28th May 2011, 04:16
  #1 (permalink)  
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Suicide

An EasyJet Captain killed himself last week. Just killed himself alone with his desperation;
I can't stop myself thinking of the consequences if he had decided to do it at work. Most worrying is the fact that his airline wasn't able to recognize his state of mine and give him some support. Unfortunately for him, the low-cost companies are not concerned with the level of pressure pilots are enduring in this environment. Pilots should find some support from their managers when reporting sick or fatigue and not being blamed as it is the case in easyJet.
I do hope the UK CAA is aware of this case and investigating.
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Old 28th May 2011, 04:39
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Can I just say, on a personal note, that anyone - pilot or otherwise - who is suffering from stress, or any issues that they don't feel they can cope with, should talk about it; if they can't talk to someone in their own company, or feel that they don't want to burden their families or friends, try the Samaritans. If you don't feel you can talk, you can always email*. Don't bottle things up; it's often said that depression is anger turned inward. If you feel angry, upset or depressed, express it, don't suppress it.

(*[email protected])

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Old 28th May 2011, 04:40
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Sad but Not News

No profession is immune from depression, and it is not always easy to recognise. This is tragic for this person's family but to make a safety story on it is stretching 'what ifs' a little far. Most suicidal people have no desire to involve anyone else in their personal tragedy. Not sure why the CAA would see fit to investigate. The coroner will I would imagine.
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Old 28th May 2011, 04:48
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Ummm to even 'think' that he might have done this 'at work' is outrageous and insensitive. Just because someone decides to take their own life, do you think they suddenly turn into a mass murderer?

Many people commit suicide who would not and did not harm a fly in life or in death. He wouldn't have crashed a plane full of SLF, end of story.
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Old 28th May 2011, 05:00
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The OP is probably referring to MSR990.

EgyptAir Flight 990 Video
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Old 28th May 2011, 05:09
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Why are pilots different to any other group in society, statistically a number of pilots will take their lives every year. What makes you think this was in anyway related to his work??

I can only second what was said above, if you feel stress and/or depression is taking over your normal life then please do seek help. Every airline I have worked for has a 'free' anonymous employee helpline.
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Old 28th May 2011, 07:10
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Sad news indeed, never nice to hear news like this.But unless there is some driving aviation reason for it,I must agree with most above,why involve CAA.I have no idea why this person made that decision but just because they were a pilot doesnt mean that aviation is responsible.
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Old 28th May 2011, 07:13
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Pilots tend to be the classic ''Alpha''* type personality which means thay are more likely to suffer from stress that the population mean and when they do, they are less likely to communicate these problems. Our profession is stressful enough. But in recent years, pilots have been faced with even more life stressors such as the airlines constantly attacking terms and condiions, base changes and being saddled with huge amounts of training debts. We will tend more susceptable to these problems - I don't know if the statistics prove this or not, but there is help available.

Several airlines have subscribed to the FAA initiative, the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as my airline has. It's a cost to the airline and probably won't be considered as a viable expense in a low overheads (sorry, I meant low cost) airline such as easyJet. But the feedback and experience we have had with the people referred has been largely positive.

However, the EAP arises suspicion amongst pilots as although it is confidential, they are paid for by the company and some will be relucatant to use it. So the Union has set up the Peer Support Group where pilots can get help from fellow pilots who can refer them to third party support agencies, or just offer a freindly face to talk to in confidence. It's in it's infancy and we're hitting the gound running - but we have hopes for it.

We aren't anticipating a case as extreme as the unfortunate subject of this thread. But hopefully we can spot the warning signs and get help if required.



* I personally don't like the term "Alpha" persoanlity as I feel the persoanlity classifiactions are too broad and generalsided, but it illustrates my point.
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Old 28th May 2011, 08:28
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Unfortunately, this is nothing new. I can remember some years ago when three captains in one well respected airline topped themselves in just one season. One of them was a good friend of mine.
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Old 28th May 2011, 08:34
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Very sad event, especially for those of us that knew him.

As shock for everybody including those very close to him.

@Bugle, please don't turn this as a campaign against easyjet, because you obviously don't know the truth about this event and you run a very high risk of making a fool of yourself when you write:

Pilots should find some support from their managers when reporting sick or fatigue and not being blamed as it is the case in easyJet.
Th PM there is actually well known to do as much as possible in helping people when there are some personal issues involved.

In this particular case there were no particular indications what was happening..
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Old 28th May 2011, 09:20
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To apportion any blame on the employer in this instance is premature and pointless.

Depression can affect anybody no matter how good or bad their life is. Clinical depression is an illness that more often than not does not have anything to do with somebody's environment.
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Old 28th May 2011, 23:09
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so so sad

This is such a sad, sad event, I know 3 EZY captains, gentlemen all,
I fully concur that to try & apportion any 'blame' at this stage is insensitive, inaccurate & irrelevent.
Godspeed to the poor soul who was in such a position as to see no way out, my heart goes out to their family, friends & colleagues an extremely sad, sad situation all round.
Life can be so cruel at times.
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Old 29th May 2011, 08:00
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Given the number of pilots and the suicide rate ( 9 per 100,000 in the UK) it is liekly that every so often one of us will kill themselves

Agree with almost everything about councilling - but I wouldn't use the Samaritans - they just listen while you pour it all out (which may help) but they can't suggest anything that might help you

very very few suicides decide to take others with them and if they do its almost always their nearest and dearest
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Old 29th May 2011, 11:50
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Smile

The whole area of Anxiety/Depression is one which some aviation authorities have been very proactive in addressing. The Australians being the first to allow the use of SSRIs, followed by the FAA.

Unfortunately the European authorities have been dragging their feet on this one for a long time. Not surprising really, it's a really difficult area, with the same old arguements for and against coming up time and time again.

I myself was the holder of a class 3 med. I developed depression. I could take the meds and lose my med or work depressed.

I took the meds, lost my medical, lost income and put my career on a very shakey footing.

Whatever the arguements against flying on antidepressants, if they are banned you can be absolutely sure that some pilots WILL fly while suffering form depression. From my own experience of the meds, operating while stable on SSRIs is infinitely preferable to operating while actively depressed.

It's an area that has no ideal answer, it ultimately needs EASA to take a realistic, pragmatic approach. Anything less and we are really just burying our heads in the sand.

Depression is a serious illness, which unlike other conditions, will not present in an areomedical exam, unless the pilot chooses to disclose. This reality must be the cornerstone of all legislation governing the status of depression and the use of SSRIs in flying/controlling.

Here's to a brighter future for us all
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Old 29th May 2011, 13:34
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I took the meds, lost my medical, lost income and put my career on a very shakey footing.
Which of course somewhat negates the whole objective of treatment.

Clinical depression—the kind that has no obvious cause in a person's environment—can respond to antidepressant medications, but situational depression—from job loss, medical problems, death of a loved one, etc.—often does not respond to medication. So the regulations forced you to risk an untreatable depression because you sought treatment for a treatable depression. On that path lies danger.

As for the risk of a pilot committing suicide at work, some suicides are so indifferent to their surroundings that they might choose any method of suicide at hand, including crashing a plane that they are piloting. However, most suicides are depressed, not antisocial or psychotic or sociopaths, so they will kill themselves in a way that involves no one else. Some suicides will actually go to considerable lengths to make sure that nobody else is endangered by their chosen method of death.

Nevertheless, it's important to prevent pilots from flying while depressed. With medication if possible, but with removal from flight status if necessary. There's always a chance that a severe suicidal impulse may impact the pilot's judgment.

Some pilots have committed suicide after losing their medicals, and that is a problem that also needs to be addressed. Stopping someone's career permanently is a great way to trigger a depression for which there may be no effective treatment. But perhaps nobody cares once the pilot is grounded.
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Old 30th May 2011, 09:41
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From experience I can give a hint of what it is like to discover that a pilot might be a regular drinker - even on a flight. I also discovered that minatures were missing after his flights. Discreet questions amongst the pilots proved that he did indeed drink whilst flying with not one of them saying anything. One day I just happened to walk from my office and saw him drink from a minature after a flight.

There were other problems that came to light of a personal nature and I decided that I would send him to our AME for a report. Fortunately the AME was well able to ask the right questions.

The following day I was summoned to see the AME who simply told me that the pressures all around him made it possible that he was a man who would, without thought, just decide that he would do whatever it took to end his life. The potential was horrendous.

I interviewed him and found that he was unfit for any further flying. The authorities took it from there and decided to take his licence away, which I am sure saved him from himself. He never flew again.

It is hard to tell what troubles anyone may be carrying around with them. What they think about life in general and what they should do put at bay those things that seem vast and affect their day to day actions. One can only watch for any signs of distress in a colleague, then not holding back by talking to someone.
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Old 31st May 2011, 11:08
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At least six pilots topped themselves after the disaster of 89 in Australia, when ALL pilots lost their jobs. Most already had marital problems with difficulties seeing the kids, losing their jobs pushed them over. Please seek medical help, if it all to much, you owe to those who love you.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 02:43
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Reply to 'Artificial Horizon' / 'Fingal Flyer'

I find it difficult to understand why you think that the CAA should not be concerned with this issue.... While I agree that it is highly improbable that this individual would have exercised suicidal tendencies in the course of their work, the issue of pilots' concerns about how to deal with the grave difficulties that would lead one to suicide, must be a serious concern to CAA and EASA. If I'm a depressed pilot what are my options? As far as the current medical goes, my best option is NOT TO SEEK TREATMENT, then I risk no chance of being grounded or having to lie on my med.

Pilot's are not like the public at large..., most others can seek treatment without it affecting their career. But as soon as a pilot even SEEKS HELP they can be in violation of their medical requirements. So the profession and its medical regulations actively discourage this profession from even seeking medical treatment.... !!!

With the current EASA stance on anxiety / depression related disorders, it is inevitable that the public will have untreated, actively depressed aviators with impaired cognitive functioning (my own experience of depression), manning their flights.

Do you really think that the CAA and other European aviation authorities should not be concerned ?????????

Last edited by Robot1; 4th Jun 2011 at 01:40.
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Old 6th Jun 2011, 20:17
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What terrible news, it's hard for me to comment about the incidence of suicide in pilots,or in this case, as I'm not aware of the full facts.

Unfortunately, the ultimate end point of depression is suicide, and the last I heard, this is the biggest killer of men aged 25 and under. Most of us who work in the field, or are close to the field, have one or two cases that will stick with us forever. We will probably always ask "what if" but realistically, it can be difficult to intervene, or at least, knowing when to intervene. Most suicides do not involve others, although there are some noteable exceptions unfortunately.

It's a common held belief that if someone is determined, they will perform this terrible act, although we know, (from survivors) that at the point of jumping off the bridge, driving into the parapett, that there are some regrets. Screening is controversial. When do you ask the question, to who,and how often? Asking the "suicide question" tends to reap more positive results than it causes damage. I can think of two occasions in my career when we've managed to prevent loss of life from taking a careful history from the depressed patient.

Opening up access to those vulnerable is crucial, we know interverntions, ranging from simple listening to sometimes having to take someones liberty from them, helps.

Unfortunately, there still remains a stigma around mental health issues. In my limited experience in the aviation world, someone losing a leg appears to attract greater sympathy than someone losing their mind.

May he rest in peace.
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