‘The truth is that people with depression are all around us – they are our teachers and solicitors; our plumbers and health professionals. Having depression does not necessarily make you unfit to work, but, based upon the headlines in many of today’s papers you could be forgiven for thinking that it does.’
(‘Don’t blame depression for the Germanwings tragedy’ – Masuma Rahim –
The Guardian 27th March 2015)
I’ve been terribly disappointed with not only the headlines surrounding the tragedy that was the Germanwings air crash, but also the vitriol that poured across social media. It is indeed a huge and devastating loss, and my heart goes out to the families of those who died, but it is likely no one will ever know what was going on in Andreas Lubitz’s (the co-pilot) mind. It brings lots of questions into play and many areas that will need to be looked at within the airline industry, but the reports circulating blaming depression can only do more harm than good.
Please see Mind’s response to the media’s reaction.
I’ve heard people write on social media that anyone with depression should not be employed as a pilot, and that what he (the co-pilot) did was hateful.
These are points I’d like to confront:
Firstly, as the quote at the top of my post says, people with depression are all around us and employed in every kind of job there is. See this list of famous people who have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, which includes such notables as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Buzz Aldrin and Isaac Newton, should these people who excelled in their work have been prevented the opportunity to work in these fields?
The world would be poorer if they had.
Mental illness is still not taken as seriously as it should, help is still far from being what it should, and I agree that people diagnosed with any mental illness should be monitored in sensitive employment, but no one* should be prevented from working in whatever field they choose.
* I will add a caveat, of course people with severe mental impairments may not be able to work, but it demonstrates that each person should be assessed on an individual basis. I don’t know the severity of whatever condition Andreas Lubitz had, or on any treatment, and therefore couldn’t comment on his suitability to his job, that would be the responsibility of the airline he worked for.
I would hate for my opportunities and abilities to be disregarded just because I suffer depression. I am a fully functioning member of society who suffers with depression, panic disorder and severe anxiety, but I am still fully able to be part of society without being side-lined.
Secondly, yes, what the co-pilot did was wrong, 100% wrong, but where do you begin applying blame and labelling ‘hateful’ especially if he was suffering from a mental illness?
I believe entirely that whatever he was suffering was more than depression, yet the headlines have begun to demonise depression yet again. Depression and all the conditions that go with it are different for each sufferer. People can relate to my symptoms but it may affect them differently. There is no textbook, overarching description that will apply to every case.
What happened that fateful day was dreadful, but for those who ache every day with depressive disorders it will be frighteningly relatable. Depression strips you of emotion; it plunges you into an abyss and leaves you there. At that point if help is not sought or given, you are at the mercy of the black dog. The condition moves from depression to something much more serious.
I have been stuck at the bottom of that pit, and my emotions blurred, my senses broken. I’ve been driving and found myself thinking about swerving into the lane of oncoming traffic. People seem to understand or accept that those in this condition may hurt themselves, but can’t imagine them taking anyone with them. Ever seen a news article on a parent who committed suicide and killed their children first? It happens. When your mind contemplates those extreme measures you are lost within the grip of psychosis, and all common sense is gone, all emotion is gone. I am incredibly lucky that I’ve won those battles, and that my arms and hands gripping the steering wheel did not give in and swerve.
One day society will understand that those suffering mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia and more are effective members of our society. We may sometimes need medication and understanding, but we are valuable and able and regular people. You may even know some of us. After all, we are who we are, warts and all, and owning our own story. Sometimes we just need society’s help and not its discrimination.