Germanwings Co-Pilot’s Depression

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on March 27, 2015

Mental Health Awareness

During my interview on FOX News Channel’s The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson today, I shared my insights live, in response to the tragic story of the airplane crash upon which the Germanwings co-pilot reportedly had a history of severe depression. I appreciate having the opportunity to share my thoughts, for the media is the vessel upon which Psychotherapists such as myself are invited to increase mental health awareness to the public. As I am a strong believer that mental health awareness is imperative. I agree with Gretchen’s assertion that mental illness must not be swept under the rug.

Gretchen & Dr KIf you are interested in viewing my interview, here’s the link: Germanwings Co-Pilot History Of Depression. Furthermore, below you shall find more talking points that I documented in an effort to further provide additional mental health awareness which includes:

  • Depression statistics
  • Depression and suicide
  • Where to get help and what kind of help
  • Does counseling help?
  • Considerations for the future: clinicians, testing

Talking Points:

Are you suffering from depression?

Current statistics show approximately 1 in 10 American adults suffer from depression. If you are experiencing depression, reach out for help. Contact your primary care physician for their recommendation to a mental health provider they trust. Contact your insurance provider for a list of names of therapists in your surrounding area of whom specializes in depression.

Do all people who are depressed commit suicide?

Current statistics show that 15% of those suffering from severe depression commit suicide. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, feeling helpless or hopeless, reach out for help. Do not be afraid to seek out help, your life is worth saving. As the well known saying goes: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. The phone # for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 800-273-8255.

Does counseling work to help people with depression?

Statistics suggest that 80-90% of those of whom get help for depression are indeed helped and are able to manage their symptoms. Some people receive counseling, others receive medication, and others receive a combination treatment plan of both. In my experience, I find cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective for cases of depression. In severe cases of depression, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medication is the most effective.

This tragedy is certainly not of the norm. Albeit rare, all it takes is those rare events for us as a society to think about the severity of some cases of mental illness. With the information to date, it appears to me this tragedy is a suicide, though it is also homicide. Painfully when a person gets to the point where they decide to kill themselves, they are no longer thinking about the needs of others, their focus is all about how to stop their own pain. Thus, the question holds: were the people on the plane collateral damage caught up in a suicidal idea, leading to intention, resulting in a plan upon which he took action on? Or was this co-pilot having other thoughts in his head that were homicidal focused? As we are unable to interview him, one can only theorize. What we do know for certain is that depression, and mental illness as a whole must be taken seriously.

Take ownership of your mental health

Those with mental illness must take ownership of their illness, seek out help when needing it.

Those with depression and many other mental illnesses are able to function, hold down jobs, and be productive. Having depression is not a sentence to not being capable of caring for others, though it is imperative that it is managed with consistency.

Treatment clinicians who work with depressed clientele

Clinicians who work in the mental health industry of whom believe their patient is unfit for work due to depression, and that patient is someone who holds the lives of others in their hands (e.g., a pilot), should be able to directly inform the employer that a note has been written for the patient to adhere to a plan of medical leave. Rather than simply leaving it to the patient himself to disclose this information to one’s employer, if this patient is responsible for other’s lives. I am a believer that each person must take ownership of one’s own mental health and wellness and thus confront one’s illness and disclose as such to one’s employer in an effort to keep one’s self and others safe. The problem is; not all people will take action in this way, thus clinicians are next in the line of defense.

HIPAA laws and clientele signing release forms to disclose information

Having one’s patient sign the appropriate release form is a simple request that can be made, and if the patient refuses, that is a potential indicator that they are not on their own going to “fess up” to their employer that they are unfit for duty. Confronting one’s patient about clinical concerns has the potential to ultimately lead a clinician to have to seek out help for a potential safety risk. HIPAA laws have played a role in clinician fear. Specifically, as clinicians we must not live in fear of reporting, if something seems disturbing and concerning to us. It is our duty to protect people from harming themselves and others if we see a red flag.

Reports show that in the case of this co-pilot, he had a doctor’s note indicating he was to take a break from work (medical leave), yet he never handed in that note. There are those of whom may “fess up”, and there are others of whom may keep their medical condition a secret, whether that is because they are afraid they’ll be fired, do not want to miss a day’s pay, feel it is a stigma, they think they won’t act out on their suicidal thoughts, or they think they will act out on their suicidal thoughts and they want to act out on those thoughts and do not want anyone to get in their way.

Psychological testing

Psychological testing, as it is currently set up is not always enough, when you hold a job where people’s lives are in your hands. Something I believe to consider for the future if we are to re-evaluate testing, is psychological testing that includes a more systemic approach, rather than an individualistic theory. Meaning: involving the nuclear family in the interviewing and check up process. Just as a job interview requires references, so should a psychological test in order to understand the full person, not just the person he/she is trying to present.

Inspirational and motivational mental health tips

10-Seconds-To-Mental-Health-125x125Take my mental health challenge! If you are interested in reading one mental health tip per day to jump start your journey of mental health growth, take a sneak peek into my newest book: ‘10 Seconds To Mental Health‘ where I provide 200+ mental health tips. A fun, informative and helpful easy read where I provide motivating and inspiring practical tips! (If you are suffering from depression, please seek out help. No article nor book is a substitute for talking with a trained, skilled, and caring professional. Reading material is of therapeutic value in addition to treatment, but not treatment in and of itself).

 

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