Mental Health Month – value your mind

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© agsandrew | iStockphoto

After 150 people were killed in March on Germanwings Flight 9525, it was inconceivable to think co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 into the French Alps.

When it was revealed that Lubitz was suffering from depression, it was a wake-up call for the aviation industry as a whole to address mental illness in the workplace.

Given that October is Mental Health Month, and the fact that one in five Australians will experience a mental illness in the next 12 months (almost 50 per cent of us in our lifetimes) the Black Dog Institute says there is no time like the present to:

  • START CONVERSATIONS around mental health with your family and friends.
  • SEEK OUT and allow people to help you if you feel you are not managing.
  • BUILD AWARENESS in your local community.

Because it’s not just pilots that are susceptible—all aviation employees can be at risk of suffering given the stresses and demands of their work.

Earlier this year Flight Safety Australia addressed this issue in, Flying beyond the blue and CASA’s Principal Medical Officer said mental illness is, ‘becoming something which more people are prepared to own up about and want to talk about a bit more—culturally, however, I don’t think Australia is at the forefront for men to talk about this sort of thing.’

‘The trouble with depression particularly, is that it is frequently insidious. You don’t realise until something bad happens that things actually are bad … it’s not something that many people are prepared to admit to.’

CASA’s Aviation Medicine branch has released a fact sheet and case study on depression to convey information regarding the health condition’s aeromedical impact:

Further help and support is available at:

  • beyondblue—seeking help and getting support is essential in treating depression and anxiety. Ph: 1300 22 4636.
  • The Black Dog Institute—website contains information on when and where to get help, support groups, personal stories and videos.
  • MensLine Australia—A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way. Ph: 1300 78 99 78.
  • CASA Aviation Medicine contacts

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m going to go out on a limb here. I have suffered from depression, but at no time did I ever feel the urge to put a plane into a dive that lasted several minutes, and take 150 people to their deaths with me. That’s not suicide, and I’m not saying he didn’t have a mental health issue, but there is another name completely for this.

    It’s name is murder.

  2. If CASA was more sensible about assessment and management of Mental Disease, pilots might jut be a little more forthcoming in their discussions. At present the feeling among most is that such a report will lose one their medical. Not a great outcome for either the individual or the community.

    • CASA actively works to maintain the flying/controlling ability of medical certificate holders, provided they meet the regulatory standard – that is, their condition is not “safety relevant”. The Aviation Medicine branch (AvMed) has in fact led the way in the early recognition of depressive disorders, allowing certification of euthymic pilots off or on suitable treatment. An external review in 2005 found there were no adverse aviation safety consequences to this policy. AvMed individually assesses each application and communicates with the applicant and their DAME to obtain supporting information to allow their return to active duty as soon as they are stable.

      • The problem is, though, is that there are barriers, and they are often perceived as threatening – reasonably so or otherwise, to a career.

        I see that CASA is actively trying to promote the image that they are doing the right thing, but when you have bulldogs hounding you down in one area, never seem to get it right in another and paint the picture of “bureaucrats giving themselves work to keep their position”, how are you supposed to have confidence that you are doing the right thing by the pilots?

        I understand i have painted an unfair picture of what CASA actually is, but for many people, its a case of “once bitten, twice shy”. Especially when it comes to something as fragile and mysterious as “will i pass my medical”

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