That depressed, anxious, crazy… pilot& co.

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… aneb pohnute dusevni zdravi v mediich. Nehazejme pilotuv zkrat na depresi a uzkosti! Je to skutecne nebezpecne vzhledem k incidenci psychickych poruch v nasi spolecnosti. 

It is (as of March 28) way too early (and we may never discover the truth) to judge what lay behind the Germanwings plane crash of March 24 2015. Too little – and too much at the same time – has leaked to the media. Typically I avoid jumping into conclusions. And I certainly don’t know what Andreas Lubitz’s motive was, how aware he was of his deeds or doubt that it was a huge tragedy. All I wanted to say is that for as much as certain religions in connection with human tragedies and terrorism is extremely dangerous, the same applies to ill mental health.

Unfortunately I’m afraid that I can relate to Lubitz more than I’m willing to admit. When first information about his depression so strong that he had to suspend pilot training episode came out, I could relate. When people were wondering about why one would commit a suicide while controlling a plane, I could relate*. And then Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend was speaking about the pilot waking up at night with a panic attack and a feeling of falling down – I could oh so much relate.

Depression, anxiety, distress – all that has been an inseparable part of my adult life, and I have unwillingly admitted that I’m going to be fighting, or rather living with these friends and enemies in one forever. It is a fight for life. Bad, even horrible, days come and go. One day you think everything is fine and stable as it is – few hours later you are crying hot, bitter tears and reckon you are a failure and that the world would be better of without you…

… and I’m certainly not alone. Some of my best and closest friends know exactly what I’m talking about, and so do other people around me: students, teachers, engineers, great friends, awesome and caring parents, “good citizens” and almost-perfect friends. We have our dark sides and dark moments, some of us end up at A&E now and again because we are “losing it”, but we know our limits. We know when things get out of balance and we scream for help – and that is what distinguishes us from those who either do not cry for help or are not heard.

I would herewith like to ask you to think twice before you do or say something which makes the stigma of living with ill mental health stronger and more evident. It is as bad as it is now, as for example Masuma Rahim pointed out yesterday (I forgive her for writing to Guardian, she made a valid point).

In Finland 50% of adults have taken antidepressants at some point in their life – mental health problems are more common than some of us might think. Vast majority of people who have been diagnosed with mental problems are able to function and contribute to the society, not unlike other people with various handicaps. I have been trying to combat stigmatization in a number of ways: talking, writing, explaining, and the latest way would be being in the board of a newly established organization helping young people with ill mental health to (re)socialize, normalize their experience.

The more we talk about mental health in daily context, the more will people know – but so far we have not reached the power the nationwide media has. I know I won’t make a change on the field of mental health awareness, but maybe one day somebody will read this and it may change the way he or she perceives mental health – and may stop putting depression in equation to something malign, a threat to the society.

Please. Don’t generalize: whatever put down the Germanwings flight, it was beyond extreme and beyond tragic. We won’t bring back lives of the 150 victims, but together we can make lives of MILLIONS of people easier by talking mental health – and by keeping an eye on our dearest and showing them they are not alone in this life-long battle. Thanks.

*) Do you want to know more about this one? Well, it is exactly the element of control which makes this particular way of leaving the word so attractive. Unlike emotions and other life hardships you experience every day, the vehicle is in your hands, it obeys you smoothly and easily. It is a bit like being in a perfect world for a minute, in a world where things make sense and work for you. Maybe even too smooth – and you go on imagining how scary yet SO easy it would be to drive into those concrete pillars in order to end the pain while being in control… This combined with the place you love as much as Lubitz loved the Alps? Tempting. For me not too tempting as long as I know and feel that I’m in balance. When I’m not, oh I scream, it is not hard to notice – so please do not worry. For the records anorexia nervosa comes under the same principle of control – over one’s body, over one’s life. Like a little island of safety in otherwise too stressful and painful reality.


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