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Mental health of pilots

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Mental health of pilots

Old 16th Dec 2016, 14:48
  #21 (permalink)  
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It's interesting the way the media pick on pilots when it comes to psychological or psychiatric problems.
There's nothing wrong with The Independent story linked above. It summarises a study published by Harvard and seeks additional comment from relevant folks at Balpa, Mind, Unite and BA. It's not the reporters' fault that none of these people chose to dismiss the study as garbage, and it's certainly not their job to make that call.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 14:53
  #22 (permalink)  
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Guys, Pyschopathy is NOT a mental illness, and has nothing to do with depression . It is a personality disorder.

Depression does not automatically lead to suicide and suicidal does not mean wanting to take 100+ people with you.
It is far more complex than this and as far as I understand from specialists not detectable and certainly not in a web survey !
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 15:07
  #23 (permalink)  
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I think we need to come together and ignore the self certified 'experts' of the world like Calder and Geoffrey Thomas, or the new one Alex Macheras (who gruesomely uses plane crashes for for his own self publicity) none of who have any real experience in aviation or any real qualification.

I'm sorry but a Qantas FF Gold card does not qualify you to comment on anything except which lounge gets you the nicest nibbles and nothing more. Instead, qualified aviators, medics, Authorities and airlines should all work together. I thought the Germanwings tragedy would have been some watershed incident. All it's done is made taking a dump mid flight even more of a hassle. I don't see any other improvement or enhancement unfortunately.

People in each and every job can suffer from depression. Few jobs allow you to kill hundreds in minutes or perhaps even thousands if they really wanted to go out with a bang.

I know of two people. One had depression, the other stress. The company treated them with nothing but compassion and they're both thankfully back online. I would hope every other airline would be the same.

If they're not then let's name and shame them. Get the Daily Mail involved as it's right up their street.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 15:18
  #24 (permalink)  
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As far as I'm concerned pilots should be able to report their mental health and have it taken care of without fear of job security, just like anyone else. If that involves time off to recover, so be it.

Unless of course the illness involves a loss of touch in reality in which case there would be cause to temporarily or permanently revoke a license.

It is of my professional opinion the vast majority of people with MH are perfectly harmless, capable human beings. There's a hell of a lot of men and women up there who do their jobs at top level every day who are suffering.

Strict regulations on punishing people for being unwell will only lead to more accidents and poor working relationships.

Also psychopathology and psychopathy are two hugely different things. Being a psycho path is rare and very different to someone who is depressed or anxious etc.

And to the person up there who has an opinion about Psychologists, there are bad eggs in all professions. Most Psychologists I know went into the profession because they wanted to and are thoroughly professional, competent and experienced people. And no, I'm not one.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 15:27
  #25 (permalink)  
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ATC Watcher....

It is rather subjective whether Psychopathy is a mental illness, in the case of Lubitz, depression may not have the primary causal factor, but depression may have triggered a personality disorder, why else kill so many others.

Dr Harold Shipman, a Manchester GP (Doctor) killed an estimated 250 patients, this I believe was not down to financial gain, but a personality disorder, including control, lack of empathy, etc.. To put it in another way, in my opinion he was a psychopath and mass murderer, which equals in my mind someone who is mentally ill.

My concerns that simply blaming the Germanwings incident on Lubitz depression is not logical, as it was only part of the error chain. For example, in the UK to obtain a firearms licence I believe the police check with the GP, that the applicant has not had mental health issues, likewise criminal/terrorist backgrounds are looked into. This is not done with the issue of a pilots licence. Issues of substance misuse/possesion are not as I am aware reported to the UK CAA, unless the person admits they are a pilot.

Likewise I think we all knew a locked flight doors after 9/11 would present as many problems as it solved. Likewise, why on such a short flight did the Captain need to use the toilet and compromise the security of the flight deck, I suggest that the turn around should have included sufficient time for crew to use the toilets and to have a meal, snack or drink.

Last edited by Homsap; 16th Dec 2016 at 15:52.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 15:31
  #26 (permalink)  
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Homsap. Personality disorders are not triggered by depression. All psychopaths have a mental illness (although more modern thinking is that it's actually not even a mental illness) but not all people with mental illness are psychopaths. That's false logic.

It's like saying that all people with an incurable terminal illness die therefore all people that die must have an incurable terminal illness.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 16:09
  #27 (permalink)  
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I'm sorry if I misled you, I agree not all people with mental illness are psychopaths, But my opinion on Lubitz, that there was an existing personality disorder in respect of Lubitz. why else would he kill so many other people.

But it's interesting you say 'all psychopaths have a mental illness' to which I agree, but classification of psychiatric illness and psychological syndromes is a muddy pool. PAS is an example.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 17:55
  #28 (permalink)  
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Guys, Pyschopathy is NOT a mental illness, and has nothing to do with depression . It is a personality disorder.

Depression does not automatically lead to suicide and suicidal does not mean wanting to take 100+ people with you.
It is far more complex than this and as far as I understand from specialists not detectable and certainly not in a web survey !
As almost always the voice of reason.....
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 19:25
  #29 (permalink)  
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Psychopathology and Stigma

This is a long post. The meat is at the top. Mods feel free to cut it down or suggest improvements especially if they would clarify or simplify any of it.

Study statistics can be made to show whatever the authors want, and an executive summary doesn't show you if there are author biases or flaws in the methodology. While the stigma of mental health is decreasing, too many people still don't accept the brain is an organ with illnesses (depression, anxiety, etc) just like any other organ. With QEEG and NeuroSPECT scans we can objectively view pathology, the changes in brain structure/function from things like depression, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, brain injury. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to positively change brain structure and function (healing), one well-controlled study on addiction showed 98% of subjects achieved normal brain structure and function in 12-months with 3-times per week therapy & counseling sessions. CBT is hard work, painful (emotionally), and there is 'homework' to impart the positive behavioral components....it isn't "lay on the couch and talk" though that's right for some. But CBT works. There are many other newer processes such as EMDR, Alpha wave stimulation, etc. The public focus should really be on reducing the stigma and removing any impediments to reaching out for help.

The stigma surrounding mental health conditions is a major deterrent to seeking help in may sensitive careers. The media doesn't help, trying to draw ratings thru embellishment and fear - see the US media push to convince the public those with combat-related PTSD are violent ticking time bombs; the Department of Homeland Security some years ago stating veterans were a threat to the country as many would come home disturbed then become domestic terrorists or train such. As driven type A personalities the fear of repercussions (real or imagined) is a detriment to seeking help over mental health concerns - often leading to one striving thru it on willpower alone until in a very bad place.

In the GermanWings case at least a few people knew something was off with him and chose not to speak up for their own reasons. Things such as a passenger's earlier comment to make for mandatory reporting by doctors (outside a patient being a threat to harming themselves or others) and "who cares if some people get fired" boils my blood. Such a thing would even further impede those needing help from reaching out or colleagues from speaking up (fearing hurting another's career) and increase risk.

Interestingly in the US at least under "Obamacare" insurance mental health care is considered incidental/auxiliary coverage like seeing a chiropractor. The requirement to cover drug/alcohol addiction treatment has turned most of the remaining private psychiatric hospitals into rehab facilities, reducing further access to inpatient mental healthcare, and created many new ones seeking that $30,000 minimum payout often of dubious care quality, unfortunately hurting further those dependent on substances for euphoria.

My background: Combat veteran (about 8 years total), medical practitioner, tactical medicine and flight medicine as part of a CSAR (combat search and rescue) team. Also a nationally certified flight paramedic and critical care transport instructor in the United States, "copilot" when we respond with the helicopter aiding with radios/navigation/see and avoid, beginning MD school in the not so distant future. Say this just to show I'm not talking completely out of my arse.

About 3 years ago came home from Afghanistan, Defense Department terminated our positions the same month, took a few more minor hits, and it all pushed me past my breaking point. Did not return to work volitionally to heal, as everything I've ever done involves daily life/death decisions - the media and public may not realize it but those of us who shoulder those responsibilities whether pilots, medics, public safety, etc take that responsibility very seriously. Buried myself in a bottle for 2 years then started trying to get better on my own thru sheer willpower. Needed to be hospitalized for psychiatric care immediately following my wife's death but instead isolated myself in my remote mountain home and just drank, fearing hospitalization would cost me the medical license and security clearance for good. Had just gone from having everything I wanted in life (was cognizant of that), to standing helpless as it was all torn from me over a 5 week period. Wasn't going to risk my medical license and clearance as they were the only things I had to hold on to. Was attempting suicide the night we buried her sitting at her grave and was stopped by my father-in-law. Tried again two weeks later, what stopped me was in essence divine intervention thus I committed to living. Never had a thought of harming anyone else, just "couldn't" handle the pain.

A couple years later I'm doing fairly good, readying to go back to work....and it all fell apart. That's when I accepted getting better wasn't going to happen on willpower alone. Found a good, caring CBT therapist and combat-vet psychologist. We've made massive progress in 6 months, I've started to see glimmers of light at the end, and haven't had a drink choosing to abstain for a couple months. The whole time I was trying alone for fear of jeopardizing my medical license of security clearance......when I needed to be in professional care.
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Old 16th Dec 2016, 22:27
  #30 (permalink)  
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Flying plane into a mountain deliberately is more 'interesting' than the whims of a bank CEO or senior exec who decides its ok to fiddle the Libor rate
Deliberately flying a plane into a mountainside is madness. Fiddling the Libor rate (and making substantial amounts of dosh in the process) is merely an expression of greed, which is a lot more common, and even considered quite ok by a substantial part of the general public.
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 07:33
  #31 (permalink)  
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QUOTE "Study statistics can be made to show whatever the authors want, and an executive summary doesn't show you if there are author biases or flaws in the methodology."

Very much agree.

I don't think this particular questionnaire is appropriate for pilots especially long haul types.
I certainly would have been given lots of points simply for being jet lagged.
These same questions are on our medicals now and everyone knows the required answers.......no no no no no no no no no
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 08:16
  #32 (permalink)  
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Some interesting editing going on here. An informed post which alluded to TCX managers has just vanished. (Not mine, btw). The rigorous censorship now being practiced on this website makes balanced discussion impossible. And therefore the value of PPRuNe is restricted too.

Ah, the media and their lawyers.......truth is a rare commodity in print these days
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 09:27
  #33 (permalink)  
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Thanks for your emotive post and sharing your traumatic experiences . must not be easy to put this on the open.
I was not aware of CBT. will check in more depth.
One small remark , you said :
In the GermanWings case at least a few people knew something was off with him and chose not to speak up for their own reasons.
A bit of explanation on the " reasons " why they did not. :
This happened in Germany. There one of the remnants of the Second World war /3rd Reich, , where people were sent to concentration camps when having mental or physical disabilities, this lead to extremely strict laws after the war regarding medical secrecy, especially regarding mental illnesses.
That is one (but by far not the only one ) of the main issue in this case..
Lubitz went to 41 different doctors within a year period . A few knew of both his illness and that he was a pilot for Germanwings but those who knew could not warn the airline by law. They just told him not to fly and issue work stoppages notes and prescriptions to that effect, the latest of those papers were found crushed in his apartment's waste bin.

The French administrative inquiry ( police/judiciary, not that of the BEA) ) will lead to a trial for manslaughter , where hopefully more details will be made available and , who knows, possible solutions to prevent recurrence of similar cases could emerge as a result.. But I do not hold my breath .

At the moment enforcing a scheme where there is an ability to talk to Peers , like for CISM ( Critical incident stress management) in full confidence , and acceptance by airlines/employer of the Peers recommendations, is for me one of the most promising way.

Last edited by ATC Watcher; 17th Dec 2016 at 09:29. Reason: typo
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 10:59
  #34 (permalink)  
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Roy Hudd,

Not a single aviation related post removed from this thread. Motorways and police corruption only.

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Old 17th Dec 2016, 11:17
  #35 (permalink)  
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The other point not really covered is that it is hard to identify mental problems
It not like you can have a blood test and the Doctor says well yes Mr Smith we have had your results back and you are suffering with depression

Depression is a normal Human emotion. You might as well say someone is suffering with Happiness

It is the extremes. The danger as there are few specific tests is to bundle everything under one umbrella
Was Lubitz depressed I am sure he was! did depression cause him to meticulously plan and execute the mass murder of 200 people absolutely not
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 11:47
  #36 (permalink)  
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Thank you for your excellent post. I wish more people exhibited the honesty, sympathy and compassion shown by you. Too many 'Prooners' rush to harsh judgments without even knowing the facts.

I take my metaphorical hat off to you and salute your courage.
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 12:50
  #37 (permalink)  
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Wouldn't be PPRuNe without the judge, jury and executioners on here :-)
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 14:30
  #38 (permalink)  
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I have had those long nights myself, lying awake, wishing the alarm would never go off. But it does. 5 o'clock wake up call, commute to work, away for 5 nights, none in your own bed, not being in control of my own life. Wife and kid at home. The little one too young to understand, he's just used to daddy being away now (what a relief). Wife is clearly unhappy with the way things are going. Say's it's got nothing to do with work, but I am not sure. As for many others, you are of different nationalities (you met through work) and what will happen if you separate?? It would be easier if 'you would just go away..'

Yep, been there. The good thing with work is it can be quite therapeutic. Many of your colleagues have been through similar episodes.
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 14:41
  #39 (permalink)  
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No decent, well run or responsible airline will sack you for going sick with depression. For a start that would be illegal in EU and until doctors had said it was untreatable or unmanageable they'd not get away with it.
The vast majority of depression is treatable, much of it fairly easily and a few months off while TU (temporarily unfit) undergoing treatment, plus a relief from the stress of work is usually all that is needed. Well, a good doctor is needed of course, and the first point of call is your AME. If he's worth his salt he'll be well equipped to put you on the right track. Don't expect to get treated on the NHS though, this will be strictly private unless the case is particularly severe/suicidal, which as posted above is only a very small proportion of those with depression.
One problem is that companies will vary in their application of sick pay - or rather the length of it and the really iniquitous thing is that LOL insurance usually excludes mental problems.
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Old 17th Dec 2016, 15:37
  #40 (permalink)  

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All the pilots I know are nuts except me.
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