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Air Pilots And Depression: What Causes Self-Harm And Suicidal Thoughts?

By Christie Abagon , Dec 15, 2016 04:20 PM EST
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Andreas Lubitz is the co-pilot who deliberately crashed his Germanwings flight, which killed everyone on board.  Reports leaked that he was being treated for depression and that he had suicidal thoughts.

Hundreds Or Even Thousands Of Airline Pilots Could Be Depressed

A very first study regarding pilots' mental health was carried out after the Germanwings unfortunate event.  Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted surveyed random 1,848 pilots on their mental health, and found that about 4.1 percent have "thoughts of being better off dead or self-harm within the past two weeks", according to a paper in the journal Environmental Health.

This means that if the study result is accurate, about 5,700 out of a total of about 140,000 airline pilots worldwide are depressed or have self-harm thoughts. This poses a big risk to the general population

Result Of The Study Surprised Researchers

The study comes after British Airways cabin crew voted for strike action, with the Unite union saying many were unfit to fly because of "stress and depression".  Researchers say that they were surprsed with their key findings. 

"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," the researchers wrote.

Out of the 75 participants of the study who are reported to have self-harm thoughts, 49 had worked as pilots within the past month.  Twenty-four said that their mental health problems "made it very or extremely difficult for them to work, take care of home matters, or engage in healthy relationships with people".

According to reports, "female pilots reported more days with poor mental health and having more diagnosed depression than male pilots, which mirrors reporting among the general population."  Experts say that the causes of depression in pilots are similar to the rest of us: background, upbringing and relationships. 

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