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.”