By now, you’ve seen the video of the JetBlue captain who had to be restrained by several passengers after becoming combative, incoherent and out of control–a very scary scene for those passengers onboard. And who can forget the JetBlue flight attendant in 2010 who jumped down the emergency slide exiting the plane with a couple cans of beer? A few weeks ago, an American Airlines flight attendant lost control in flight as well.
Whats going on? Are airline crews suddenly becoming more stressed? Or is it something else?
As a psychologist married to a longtime commercial pilot, and as someone who treats pilots in my private practice, I don’t think these recent incidents mean we suddenly have a flight-crew instability crisis on our hands. What is clear, however, is that pilots worry that they will be penalized if they admit they are stressed.
They also may worry that if they seek therapy, it will be viewed negatively, as a sign of weakness.
The safety of the flying public needs to be a priority. However, pilots who come forward and admit they are going through a difficult time and need help, should be encouraged to get that help, not face discrimination and penalties.
We know, for example, that psychotherapy is a very effective method of treating many forms of anxiety, stress and depression. And we know that people who voluntarily enter treatment, before a crisis, have a much better prognosis and are more compliant with any medications and lifestyle changes after treatment is completed.
So, how can we keep the flying public safe and at the same time, encourage pilots, who have treatable problems, to get the help they need, before their problem erupts into a potential crisis in flight?
The solution starts with education and public awareness that having stress and other emotional issues does not mean you are “crazy” or “dangerous”–it means you are human.
Getting help for your stress doesn’t mean you are weak; it means you are strong. It means you are resilient. It means you want to feel better.
— APAHelpCenter (@APAHelpCenter) April 3, 2012