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When a Pilot’s Depression Leads to Suicide: 5 Warning Signs to Look Out For

When a Pilot’s Depression Leads to Suicide: 5 Warning Signs to Look Out For

Please note: If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your life matters.

The 2015 Germanwings Flight 9525 disaster was devastatingly tragic, where 150 people were killed in light of a co-pilot potentially ending his life by crashing the plane. Although death by suicide does not often occur through plane crashes, it is still an unfortunate phenomenon that needs to be addressed. Pilots are at risk for serious mental illness, as their position requires long hours, time away from family and friends, uncertainty in terms of job and schedule, and more. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 300 million people around the world have depression – and this does not exempt pilots. By understanding the causes and warning signs, we can hopefully provide more support for pilots who need help.

A 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Health sought to understand just how prevalent depression was amongst pilots. Researchers conducted an anonymous, online survey, with pilots recruited from unions, airline companies, and airports. A total of 1,837 pilots completed the entire survey, with 1,866 completing half of it. Overall, this is what the researchers found:

  • Many pilots who are experiencing depressive symptoms are not seeking out treatment because of the fear that it will have a negative impact on their career
  • A total of 233 pilots reported symptoms that met the criteria for depression, with 75 pilots reporting suicidal thoughts

Between occupational stressors and lack of time/stigma regarding seeking treatment, pilots are a special population that deserve attention. If you’ve been experiencing the following, you need to seek help right away:

  1. Feeling hopeless, guilty, and/or worthless, almost as if you were living in a “black hole”.
  2. You’ve lost interest in any activities that you used to enjoy participating in.
  3. You experience a lot of sleeping problems, and/or you feel constantly exhausted.
  4. You experience feeling rapid heart rate, nervousness, restlessness, feeling tense, or feeling panicked.
  5. Your emotions seem uncontrollable, and you may experience bouts of anger, irritability, utter sadness, or even suicidal thoughts.

If you haven’t already, speak with someone from a professional treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing. There are people who care about you.

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