The Pilot with a Mental Illness

Did you hear about the pilot who drove the plane right into the mountains? Well, if you haven’t I don’t know where you have been. The minute I heard of this event I immediately felt something was terribly wrong mentally with this man. It makes no sense a plane is above 30,000 feet then falls dramatically to 100ft before hitting a wing and colliding into the terrain.  It had to be the pilot or a serious issue with the plane.

The black box and a passenger recording has exposed the truth. The man locked himself inside and immediately set the plane into a rapid decent. It must have been insane. The other pilot was trying to break down the door with no luck, pleading with the man to stop, but later on growing angry.

How did it get to this point though? How did a man become so sad he felt like the only way to end his life was to take a plane down? Why did he feel it necessary to bring down 150 people with him he didn’t even know instead of just simply hanging himself? Was he full of hate? Or did he feel so alone he felt like the only way out was to die with a bunch of people? Did he feel he had no purpose so he had to make his mark in history with a tragedy rather than an accomplishment? Did he stop his medications? Did his wife ask for a divorce? What happened to bring this man’s mind to this state?

All of these questions are important. Not because they are related to a tragedy but because they address a broader issue going on with people: mental illness. I am not excusing this man from what he has done, it is horrific, but in order to help prevent this from reoccurring we must understand it. We must ask uncomfortable questions and try to get inside how a person like this thinks so we can help. To ignore them is to turn a eye to a person being mugged. Their illness is REAL. It can start off small then lock onto the core of society until eventually we have an epidemic that could have been avoided.

It amazes me this man went to a doctor it seems, was diagnosed with something, but continued to work. How was he allowed to work? Did he hide his condition for years on end? Or did he not hide it and when he told someone they reacted with a typical “everyone feels sad sometimes” response?

Depression isn’t sadness. It is more than that. It takes out your soul and smashes it unto the ground until you lie there motionless, wishing you had a purpose.  There are no words really to describe it, only emotions sometimes. A person at times knows how silly they are for feeling that way, yet cannot shake it. There is something preventing it from being broken. The cycle continues until the person survives or does not. And survival could mean, never being the person you once was and accepting that. But it takes a lot of strength to get through it. It sometimes takes support from others. Perhaps, the pilot brushed his teeth, ran through the park, went to work, and at times still cried. And after years of hiding the tears, he snapped. Were there no signs? Was he that good at hiding it? I think it was a combination of people in general not understanding mental illness and also people feeling ashamed to admit their condition. Mental evaluations for high stress jobs should be mandatory though an there needs to be more social workers utilized. We cannot live in a social media based society without addressing the issues we create when we put unrealistic expectations on human beings. There are not enough centers for those who are mentally ill, not enough funding, psychologists, social workers, etc…Sometimes the mentally ill are left homeless or incarcerated or they end up flying a plane into a mountain. Whatever it is, it isn’t okay.

If medications help some people, then more research needs to be done on specific elements in combination to certain conditions. Right now it is too broad. You have bipolar patients on the same medication as depressed and/or anxiety patients. C’mon. And if meds do not help some people, more funding to alternate therapies as well. Either way, we must try to prevent innocent people from being hurt by those who were hurting but did not tell anyone. We must lift the stigma off the mentally ill and admit sometimes it isn’t their fault. As a society we cannot let it be suppressed because it only leads to tragedy. Let’s not blame anyone or anything specific but rather fix the problems at hand. My heart goes out to all those who perished.

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