Airplane crash, depression, stigmatization and TED

I have recently started using Twitter a lot and thinking in terms of short headlines to describe complex news, events and trends. When writing the title of this article, some key words came into my mind that are probably enough to give you an idea of what I will be talking about. And I will start with the penultimate word – stigmatization. A few weeks ago, I have written my previous article titled: “Why don’t we talk about mental health?” and I have promised in one of my paragraphs that I will continue the debate on the dangers implied in coming out as suffering from mental health. The dangers of stigmatization…

You have probably heard about the Germanwings airplane crash, the theories about the “suicidal depressive” co-pilot and the wave of out-raged citizens at the idea that air companies are hiring people without testing them enough. You might have, if you are lucky enough to have open-minded people who share the right things in your news feed, also heard about the stigmatization that has risen around people who suffer from depression. Some points are to be made clear:

1. Generalization is a bad approach and adds to the stigma around mental health.

“Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t  be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades  and assessments should be made on a case by case basis. Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.” (Mental Health Charity Mind – also see Read more section at the end)

2. Depression and aggressive suicide are not intrinsically linked.

“there isn’t a link between depression and aggressive suicide, if that is what this is. There isn’t normally such a link. “(Professor Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and adviser to the British army)

3. Success stories exist and denying people who have records of suffering from depression a job is as bad as discriminating on other bases.

“I have dealt with some pilots with depression and when they recover they are still monitored. But the two I have dealt with returned to very successful careers.”

“Why should they not? What does cause trouble is saying that if you have ever had a history of depression then you should not be allowed to do whatever. That is wrong, as much as saying that people with a history of broken arms shouldn’t be allowed to do something.” (Professor Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and adviser to the British army – also see Read More below)

4. We must analyze whether it was a case of depression or something else.

“Lubitz did not die quietly at home. He maliciously engineered a spectacular plane crash and killed 150 people. Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely.

Using the word “depression” to describe inexplicable or violent behavior sends two false signals: First, that society has no obligations with regard to our happiness — because misery is a medical problem — and second, that a depressed person is in danger of committing abhorrent acts.” (Business Insider article – see read more section for links)

5. Last, but not least, depression is, despite the stigma and bad publicity lately, a medical condition that needs treatment and should not be a “secret we share” as Andrew Solomon remarkably describes it in the following video:

Read more:


About Ana Gabriela Popa

Ana represents all European students and societies and will be in charge of Disabled and Dyslexic students portfolio.

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