Study finds a staggering number of commercial airline pilots are suffering from depression to the point of being suicidal.
Academics from Harvard University carried out an anonymous survey of pilots after Andrea Lubitz, a depressed pilot of Germanwings plummeted the plane on a collision course with a mountain last year which resulted to 149 deaths. The manner of which the deliberate suicide was performed is reminiscent of the Japanese World War II kamikaze pilots.
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The study also comes in the time when the British Airways cabin crew went on a strike pushing across the reality that many were unfit to fly because of “stress and depression.”
In the study, while 12.6 percent showed depressive symptoms, some 4.1 percent of respondents reportedly have “thoughts of being better off dead or self-harm within the past two weeks” as published in Environmental Health journal
Clinical depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by the last two weeks of these conditions purportedly
There are 140,000 airline pilots worldwide and this result means that 5,700 of them are having these dark thoughts about themselves.
“Hundreds of pilots currently flying are managing depression, and even suicidal thoughts, without the possibility of treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts."
It is common to under-report one's mental conditions including adverse health conditions especially among pilots for professional reasons and in the fear of being tagged as not fit for duty.
As this study provides glimpse of the mental conditions of airline pilots, this must also be used to enhance preventive measures of mental health on top of the existing policies to improve mental health screening, evaluation and record keeping.
Ensuring that our commercial flights pilot can manage their own mental health is the safest way for flyers to also ensure their safety during the flight.
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