A new study looks at the mental health of pilots in the aftermath of an intentional crash of a Germanwings plane.
The results of a new study commissioned after crash of a Germanwings airliner last year, in which the pilot intentionally crashed the plane, killing himself along with 149 passengers and crew, has found that one of every eight airline pilots may be flying while depressed, and some of them have actually had suicidal thoughts.
According to cbsnews.com, the Harvard University study coincides with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the agency’s counterparts in Europe increasing their efforts to bring mental health issues among pilots and crew to light.
The study involved a questionnaire that is often used to identify depression, and the findings show that 12 percent of the survey respondents met the criteria for clinical depression, and four percent admitted to having thoughts about suicide.
Currently, the system is set up around self-reporting of mental health issues, but the employees, by doing so, could result in being grounded and could lead to the pilots losing their jobs.
That is why many experts believe the rates are under-reported, and the issue may be more concerning than it now appears. Some are calling on the FAA and other worldwide agencies to do more to evaluate pilots’ mental status and identify those with issues.
The FAA has been working with pilots and the unions since 2015, trying to increase the awareness and the understanding of mental health issues, as well as trying to reduce the perception of dishonor when seeking assistance for the problem.
However, the agency has not called for routine psychological evaluations for pilots, citing there is no evidence that actually proves the skies would be safer by doing so.
The study’s researchers said there was a similar rate of mental health issues among the pilots as there was among the general population in comparable high-stress occupations.
“For many of us or people in the general population, they can often seek treatment or counseling,” said Joseph Allen, who worked on the study, “whereas pilots, if they do so, they run the risk of severe impacts to their career.”
The study’s findings were published in the journal Environmental Health.