Aviation and Mental Health

From NAFI's Chair

Aviation and Mental Health

I seem to have taken on the task in eMentor of asking you to watch for your own, your families' and your clients' wellbeing. This concern, as you've read, arose from things that happened to me and I thought we might all benefit from the lessons learned. I'm going to suggest again that we watch out for each other, this time, in reaction to the national and international news regarding "suicide by airplane."
By now, you must be aware of the theft Friday in Seattle of an empty Horizon Air Q400 turboprop by a ground service agent for that company, and what the NTSB has called its intentional crashing and the employee's death. Although many not familiar with aviation were somewhat astounded that he could start and fly the aircraft, several knowledgeable people, including NAFI President Rick Todd, helped inform the media. (See stories below).
A less noted incident is one that happened in Utah on Monday. Police said a commercial pilot stole his employer's Citation and crashed it into his own home in an apparent suicide, and apparently an attempt to kill his wife and step-son. He had been arrested for domestic violence and released on bail earlier the same day.
These incidents, along with the 2015 Germanwings murder/suicide involving an Airbus A320 that killed 150 and led the EU to implement psychological screening of airline pilots, and a student's suicide that nearly took the life of a flight instructor in Connecticut in 2016, are tragedies for the dead, survivors and their families. Many are also already discussing what effect the latest events might have on aviation security on a national and international level.
However, right now I'm thinking about individual human beings, which prompts me to ask you to look out not only for the physical wellbeing of the people close to you and in your instructing endeavors, but also for their emotional state. Stress and depression can take on many forms and there is no shame in either offering or accepting help or comfort. I'll touch on this topic in the upcoming Mentor magazine, but consider the many resources available to you or your family, friends, colleagues, or students in times of need.

One resource is www.BeThe1to.com. Your state, county or employer will also have resources. To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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