The problem isn’t if the Germanwings pilot had a mental illness, it’s why he hid it

Finally – something worth reading on the subject of the Germanwings crash and mental illness.

(Excerpts from article & link at the end.)

“Even if we had more information, without having a detailed case history or hearing from a psychologist who examined him, we can’t make any assumptions about what happened or what was going on with this individual,” Ballard says.

Mental illness is common. (For instance, more than 350 million people worldwide experience depression.) But there is no evidence linking it to homicidal actions or tendencies. Only 3% to 5% of “violent acts” are committed by those with mental illness.

In fact, people with severe mental illness are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

Ballard says accidents or issues related to pilot mental illness are “exceptionally rare.”

We don’t know, and may never know, why Lubitz hid his condition or whether that played a role in the crash. Yet, we do know that stigma surrounding mental illness is pervasive and may have kept Lubitz from reporting his struggles.

Some conditions that can impair judgment disqualify a pilot, including an established medical history of severe personality disorder; psychosis involving delusions, hallucinations or disorganized behavior; or bipolar disorder.

Unfortunately, the speculation about the role of Lubitz’s condition may now put intense pressure on pilots worldwide to conceal their experiences with a mental disorder.

No doubt many who experience mental illness are familiar with this feeling. Each time a mass murder takes place, public judgment quickly focuses on disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

The reaction is so immediate and so intense that it leaves no room for a more nuanced or complicated understanding of how mental illness actually affects a person. Nor does it recognize that most people are successfully treated for their conditions. Instead, Ballard says, the “disease, disorder, dysfunction” of mental illness appear to offer a plausible explanation for an unthinkable tragedy.
No matter what investigators discover about Lubitz’s psychiatric condition, this solemn occasion is an opportunity to rethink the way we talk about tragedy and mental illness so that it reflects more than just an obsession with a diagnosis.

“We need to create an environment,” says Ballard, “where we can have conversations about health that include the whole person — mental and physical.”


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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

20 thoughts on “The problem isn’t if the Germanwings pilot had a mental illness, it’s why he hid it”

  1. But also though, you have to take into account whether his mental illness caused him to think illogically and do this. I know, I wrote the same thing about stigma, fear and hiding his condition. It;s all very complicated and right now it is bad and awful that this happened. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A couple of years ago I worked with a pilot who had had a stroke (in the washroom during a stopover, the delay in treatment led to severe brain injury). He had, before and after injury, a serious drinking problem. I discovered that there was an entire support network and special treatment centre for Westjet pilots with addiction problems. Connect the dots? I would not be surprised if the hours, time changes and pressures placed on pilots (especially with the rush to cut airline fares) exasperate psychological problems even for pilots who do not have a serious underlying mental health concern. Anyone can crack. I hope this is normalized to a broader conversation, not one that further stigmatizes those who are already “labeled”.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I know what means not being able to say about your mental condition in your work place. Not saying is itself a big issue for me, especially when I want to have that pertucular job and want to work. In the interviev there is no way to say it. One of my last longer job, arond four years, in the library I kept quite, until I had breakdown. After that, even no one asked me to leave I couldn’t bear to say there because of others attititude towards me, their look, putting distance, ect., made me leave even change the city I live. It was too hursh. The isolation I felt was too much.
    I’ve been told several times by mental helth adviser for work that we shouldn’t tell our mental condition in the interview. Even my doctor advise me not to say it. They assumed that they’re helping us. We usually asked to change our thought or feelings towards outsiders, but how far we can go on our own? This accedident is too sad! Obviously, it is too easy to blame one person.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes – if it was cancer they would take up a collection, donate their vacation days, offer to watch your children, bring meals to your house, send you cards and fruit baskets, commiserate with your spouse, I could go on …

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We are all about freedom in the US, and yet with this kind of stigmatization we are anything but free. My plan is to break out of it – I’ve been putting it on myself as much as anyone has. It feels good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always wonder whether American freedom is just a way of saying capitalism. Not that I have issues with capitalism, but I guess I tend to assume that all of our governments are all about power and money.

      I really hope than none of that offended you.


  5. I agree, and also, today I came across this article:
    Judging by the other news and features surrounding this article it doesn’t seem to be my sort of magazine, but I do very much like and agree with the point the writer makes. A different angle, but also a valid point methinks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I agree; it’s unlikely merely depression, although depression may be part of it. I don’t believe that taking out all those people can be wholly attributed to it. Thank you for the referral.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Someone aptly posted on Twitter “hate him if he gets treatment, hate him if he doesn’t.” Couldn’t be more true of how society sees mental health.

    Liked by 1 person

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