Demonising Depression



Andreas Lubitz competing in a Lufthansa marathon in 2013

…To conclude that his [Andreas Lubitz]  role in the [Germanwings] crash was the automatic consequence of any history of mental illness would be irresponsible and damaging. There has been no suggestion that males should be prohibited from becoming pilots, that Germans are unfit to fly, or that 27-year-olds should not be let loose in the cockpit. Only one factor has been picked over: Lubitz’s mental health.

The truth is that people with depression are all around us – they are our teachers and solicitors; our plumbers and health professionals. Data obtained following a recent freedom of information request revealed that more than 40,000 NHS staff took sick leave as a result of stress, anxiety and depression in 2014. Up to 20% of those are likely to be medical doctors; indeed, doctors are significantly more likely to experience depression than the general population. 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, Guardian)

Andreas Lubitz hid illness: Everything we know on Friday about Germanwings plane crash co-pilot (Telegraph)

(Wolfgang Nass/BILD)

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86 thoughts on “Demonising Depression

  1. Rob_G

    The difference between pilots and all of the above is that a pilot with mental health issues would be in the position to kill several hundred people in one fell swoop.

    I would hope that people who suffer from depression would feel demonised by any of the reports in the papers today, but I think an investigation into the crash would need to consider all factors, including Andreas Lubitz’s mental health.

    1. f_lawless

      and surely there’s a difference between being depressed and suicidal and deciding you’re going to kill 150 or so other people along with yourself. You’d have to wonder was he actually a psychopath, clinically speaking, to seemingly show such a lack of empathy.

    2. Clampers Outside!

      My ship’s not in on this yet but it doesn’t look well….

      “The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues” the prosecutors’ office in Dusseldorf said. From Telegraph link.

      I don’t believe that to suggest that pilots with a particular level* of depression shouldn’t fly demonises the illness. Just like telling a blind man he cannot drive does not demonise his blindness.

      level* – for want of a better word in fairness.

      Two things are certainly needing fixing in my view:
      – Failure of the pilot psychological testing procedures.
      – The lack of a procedure dictating double crew in the cockpit at all times, like they have in the US.

      1. ReproBertie

        “The lack of a procedure dictating double crew in the cockpit at all times, like they have in the US.”
        This is also policy for Aer Lingus and Ryanair.

      2. martco

        trying to understand this situation myself….I’d say total catch 22 for him, if he’d informed his employers he’d have had a P45 quick enough and a career game over

        actually I know for a fact that even in my line of work (which is just a bs job compared to him and not remotely having any of the levels of real responsibility this guy had in his hands on a daily basis) if a fella or a girl presented themselves with issues like this it would have a direct affect on their future career, sad and I think utterly wrong but true

        very surprised double crew not mandatory, was it because the airline being cheap and cheerful? would wonder how many other gaping holes exist in that industry

        can’t imagine what his parents must be experiencing here, their life over too really

        1. Delacaravanio

          P45? No, it’s not legal to fire purple for bing sick. And he’d have hardly been the first pilot to suffer from burnout or depression.

          The real question here it’s whether the reaction to this will result in a situation where pilots who are depressed or battling inner demons are now less likely to come forward. That would not be a good thing.

      3. Spaghetti Hoop

        My ship is still out on the open seas but your last points will be two of many that will prompt more stringent regulations (for the better) on both airline communication technology and pilot-vetting. In the context of MH370 also.

  2. jeremy kyle

    I really don’t know why it’s surprising that his mental health is under the spotlight.

    1. newsjustin

      Yeah. The following passage is nonsense.

      “There has been no suggestion that males should be prohibited from becoming pilots, that Germans are unfit to fly, or that 27-year-olds should not be let loose in the cockpit. Only one factor has been picked over: Lubitz’s mental health.”

      No one suggests his gender , nationality or age is an issue here because they aren’t. What is at issue, because it appears to becoming more and more likely as evidence is collected, is that the co-pilot was suffering from mental health issues which can, in extremely rare cases, lead to suicide.

    2. Nigel

      More that something like this tends to show how blunt, stupid, potentially damaging and quite possibly wrong the spotlight actually is.

    3. Murtles

      Exactly, its not demonising depression at all. All the reports are based on the facts that :
      * Lubitz was unfit to fly before due to depression
      * On the day of the crach he was certified as unfit to work but chose to hide this from his employer
      It is the author himself who is jumping to conclusions and frankly trying to find a bandwagon. Not every one who has depression is a mas murderer so stop trying to put words in other peoples mouths. Lubitz was recently jilted to so is Mr Rahim also suggesting that we are demonising everyone who has broken up with someone and never let them near a plane again?

      1. Don Pidgeoni

        He had depression in the past. The hospital that supposedly treated him, didn’t treat him for depression. He was sent home. I haven’t read anything about him being dumped apart from a vague notion that this could be a cause.

  3. whelp

    Yet another case of some self-important geebag from the Guardian taking something from a situation that actually isn’t there, just so they can pontificate upon it. Sweet Jesus.

    1. ReproBertie

      RTÉ news had a report about the crash yesterday which included some randomer in Germany saying that people with depression should not be allowed in the cockpit of commercial flights.

        1. Vote Rep #1

          Do you agree that people with depression should not be allowed drive any vehicle which contains anyone other then themselves?

          1. Drogg

            There is plenty of jobs that peoples medical conditions can stop them from taking and i think not being able to fly because you are depressed is a reasonable expectation.

          2. jeremy kyle

            “This is your Captain speaking just to let you know I haven’t taken my medication today because ‘fupp it’ what’s the point of anything anyway?”

          3. Smashmouth

            So bus and train drivers who are currently taking ant depressants should immediately be struck off??

          4. paps

            Yes , I also wouldn’t get into the car with a psychopath , that’s a mental illness too right?

          1. Clampers Outside!

            Nigel, I think Paps sees all depression as the same thing…. from what I’m reading.

            A bit like saying that a missing finger is the same as any other missing limb or other appendages.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            Yes, just like saying I was hurt when I crashed the car, or I was hurt when I stubbed my toe. Depression reaches both sides of that chasm of hurt too. Just like alchoholism can effect someone and no one around them would be aware of it…. oh he just has a few pints too many on a Friday to I think he drinks a bottle a day.

            There just doesn’t seem to be any understanding from you on that Paps, and I believe that that is willful on your behalf… that is I think you be trolling.

            Either that, or you’re think as bog wood.

          3. Nigel

            Yes, but it’s a) not contagious and b) often manageable with the correct treatment. There are forms of physical illness that are both of these, and they do not exclude sufferers from employment either.

          4. Stumpy

            You must be new here Nigel, with all your making reasonable points in a measured fashion. Why can’t you be more of a douchebag like paps?!

        2. Nigel

          Why? Based on this? How much information do you actually have about his condition and his state of mind that you’re willing to say that at this stage? How much do you know about the condition itself? But you know what? Go ahead. ban ’em. ban all people with depression from jobs or activities that are vulnerable and sensitive. Be sure to pay for their disability benefits and health care treatments, though. Otherwise they’d be obliged to hide their condition and go seek gainful employment and then EVERYONE AROUND THEM WOULD BE IN DANGER!!!!

          1. Don Pidgeoni

            Stop being so logical Nigel. We are still in knee-jerk phase here. Only half-baked theories based on pop pyschology and watching Con Air are allowed until Monday.

          2. John E. Bravo

            It’s okay to help them if it’s good depression, but what if their bad depression ended up affecting innocent happy people?

          3. Nigel

            I was so relieved when the doctor diagnosed me with good depression rather than bad depression. They let me out of quarantine and took off my ankle bracelet and let me hug my family for the first time in years.

        3. Em-malicious

          Churchill was allowed to run Britain (holding various cabinet positions from 1908 and PM after 1940) despite suffering from acute manic-depression/bipolar disorder. Many historians have used the word ‘manic’ to describe his plans for the Gallipoli invasions in 1915. However, he planned an equally flamboyant amphibious invasion in June 1944 but, for some reason, the word ‘manic’ is not used to describe the D-day landings. Why? Because they worked. Depression, mania, and bipolar are used to blame someone when they fail but it’s forgotten when the exact same people can do extraordinary things.

          The Germanwings disaster was a tragedy, for absolutely everyone involved. As my partner said to me last night, the poor man’s parents must be suffering terribly over this. Their’s is a double tragedy. That should not diminish the fact that every family touched by it is suffering. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

          It should provoke a robust debate on a number of protocols that have been found lacking. There are clear lessons to be learned from this and mental health issues in the workplace will likely emerge as a significant one. However, it should not be used an an excuse to kick mental health issues around like a media football. There’s a serious amount of clickbait coming out of a horrible human tragedy.

    2. Starina

      It’s a big story in the Mail today, saying he had been for “psychiatric treatment” — basically suggesting he had been sectioned when it’s likely he just went to therapy.

      I’m absolutely appalled by some of the coverage in the media today. They’re perpetuating a stigma which probably contributed to his depression in the first place — he had ripped-up medical leave notes in his house, suggesting that he felt he would lose his job if he admitted he was depressed, so he kept it hidden until he totally cracked.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Yes but we don’t know if he ‘totally cracked’ as part of anxiety or depression – or he genuinely intended to end the lives of his 150 passengers. The media are clearly divided on this.

        1. Starina

          and that’s fine that we don’t know, but in the meantime they’re talking about depression like anti-vaxxers talk about autism.

        2. Don Pidgeoni

          I don’t care what the media think about this. They thought that the colour of a dress was a major news story.

  4. Yea, Ok

    His mental health is THE reason this happened, so how can it be ignored?

    The guardian is absolutely awful for bleeding heart nonsense (urinals are the patriarchy?!).

      1. Yea, Ok

        What’s not true about it? Depression alone won’t lead someone to kill 150 people, but it’s definitely, certainly a mental health issue that caused this.

        1. Smashmouth

          You’re opening up a whole can of worms here

          by your logic anyone who commits a heinous crime suffers mental health issues

          Can it not be a case that some people are just evil?

          1. Yea, Ok

            Well, in a way, yes. Unless there’s another motive like religious fanaticism/fundamentalism, revenge, robbery (personal gain) or something else, no one in their “right mind” kills people like this. So yes, my logic is that someone doing something like this without motive is suffering from mental health issues. I don’t think that’s a controversial view.

          2. Smashmouth

            Yeah why not?

            evil or motivated by some political or personal means

            they dont necessarily have to be classifed as being mentally ill

          3. Yea, Ok

            And “just evil” by your definition would point to sociopathy, itself a mental health disorder.

          4. Clampers Outside!

            In fairness to Smashmouth, there is room for ‘evil’ otherwise our jails would be empty and our mental health institutions full.

            But that’s an aside to all this, me thinks.

        2. Nigel

          Well a stubbed toe isn’t going to lead you to lose your entire leg and saying that when someone stubs their toe, they’re in danger of losing their entire leg is a bit scarifying and possibly even irresponsible. But it’s possible that with certain pre-existing conditions, all the wrong complications and disasters and lack of medical attention, stubbing a toe MIGHT lead to the loss of an entire leg. You’d still be an idiot if you went into a panic every time someone stubbed their toe.

          (Analogy is illustrative rather than comparative: depression is not a stubbed toe.)

    1. Clampers Outside!

      No. If they had the same procedures as the US, he’d never have been left in the pilots cabin on his own.

      That’s not saying ‘this is right’ or ‘that is wrong’. I’m just poking a hole in your ‘THE reason’ bit.

      Just like there are procedures for reversing a JCB carefully, if not followed people can get run over, irrespective of whether the driver has a mental illness or not.

    2. Smashmouth

      @ Yea Ok

      We have no idea what his motives may or may not havebeen

      To say with certaintly that this is a result of mental illness is jumping the gun

  5. JLK

    He had a sick note determining that he was unfit to work…whatever the reason stated he hid it from his employers & went against medical advice. The stated reason for his unfitness is likely related to the reason he carried this out, whilst also being opportunistic as he had to wait to be alone on flight deck.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      “….whilst also being opportunistic as he had to wait to be alone on flight deck”

      That’s a contradiction right there. If he did “wait”, he was acting in a premeditated fashion. And that would not be opportunistic as you said.

      1. JLK

        You can think about doing something but have to wait for the opportunity to arise, then when it does, decide in a split second whether to do it or not.

          1. JLK

            you can premeditate (i’d love to die by crashing a plane some day) and be opportunistic (oh is this my chance to die crashing a plane)

            Definition of OPPORTUNISTIC

            : taking advantage of opportunities as they arise: as
            a : exploiting opportunities with little regard to principle or consequences

  6. 评论员




      1. Delacaravanio

        And your posts are an advertisement for a new keyboard. One with a working caps lock.

    1. kellma

      I thought you were having a panic attack yourself there. Caps off….
      That aside you cant make a sweeping statement that anyone with a quiver of a mental health issue should be excluded from work ( I know you are not, I am referring to other comments). There are many professions where, if someone is so determined to do harm, they can.
      This might never have happened if the other pilot had not needed the loo. It was a short flight. But just say this guy had a stroke then it would have been the same outcome. So the requirement then to always have 2 persons (if one is then another member of crew) would address this to a large extent.

  7. Em-malicious

    If anyone’s looking for a more positive but very powerful message on mental health, this Bressie video knocked me for six. It’s a must see if you haven’t seen it already. The difficulty of getting a proper diagnosis is one of the key issues addressed.

    1. Small Wonder

      That’s incredible. Thanks for sharing and adding some much needed realism to a hysterical debate.

  8. Wearnicehats

    Actively choosing to crash a plane killing 150 people is not the act of a rational minded person. Be he depressed, suicidal, a terrorist or just plain crazy, the media are going to look at the reason. And the media, being the media, are going to do so in soundbites. I was more interested in the medical process. Surely if a pilot has a sick note for mental health issues the doctor should be duty bound to inform his employers, hippocratic oath or not, to ensure that the pilot isn’t actually in charge of a big metal tube full of innocent people

  9. Sinabhfuil

    Nobody’s talking either about the rolling series of strikes by Lufthansa pilots in the last couple of years as the company seeks to change their working conditions and pension rights, with regular walkouts even including last week
    The sick note may have been for depression or may not. And people often go to the doctor, get a sick note and say “Ach, I’m fine really, sure I’ll go on in” – I’ve done it myself even when dying of flu. Stupid, but if your job’s at risk you’re more likely to do it. And if you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend, as this man apparently had, you’re more likely to want to be in work than brooding at home.
    His poor parents. It’s beyond comprehension what they must be suffering.

    1. Custo

      Are you actually arguing that a man who deliberately flew a plane into a mountain killing 150 people was not mentally ill? That he was in fine mental health?

  10. Rosa

    The bin lorry driver passed out at the wheel in Glasgow. Physical health condition. Many dead. Everyone understands. Untreated Andreas Lubitz’s mental health condition led to a similar situation albeit with much bigger loss of lives. Now THAT is very difficult to understand and/or accept. We still talk too little about mental health issues.

  11. Peter Dempsey

    Typical Guardian bullsh*t. They frequently try to deflect blame and don’t seem to have any belief in personal responsibility. Infantile, childish, chin-stroking, me, me, me stuff.

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