Groups condemn crash pilot media coverage

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​Charities worried coverage of crash pilot will make it harder for people with depression in the workplace 

31st March 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Mental health campaigners have hit out at media treatment of the Germanwings pilot who is suspected of deliberately crashing his plane into the French Alps.

See Me, the Scottish mental health anti-stigma charity, says it is concerned media descriptions of the pilot's mental health unecessarily focuses attention on people with depression in the workplace. 

And leading UK mental health charities have cautioned that assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board regarding people with depression.

Judith Robertson, See Me prgramme director, said she was worried sensationalist coverage will make it harder for people with mental health issues to get and sustain employment.

“Much of the debate has focused on whether or not he should have been able to work as a pilot given he had a history of depression,” she said.

“We are concerned that based on assumptions about his mental health, there have been numerous calls for new measures which would make it harder for anyone with a history of mental health conditions to work in certain roles.”

Headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems

Lubitz was at the controls as the Airbus A320 jet executed a controlled descent from cruising altitude to smash into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard

French officials said the crash appeared to have been no accident, but an intentional act on the part of Lubitz.

Reports say the 27-year-old first officer had been treated by psychotherapists “over a long period of time but that follow-up visits to doctors showed no signs of suicidal tendencies or aggression toward others.

Following the crash The Sun ran the headline “Madman in cockpit” while the Daily Mail asked: “Why was he allowed to fly?”

And the Daily Mirror splashed its front page with “Killer pilot suffered from depression.”

Robertson added: “Rather than barring people with a history of mental illness from certain roles, as many people have called for in the past few days, we would call for more employers to look at the individuals involved, take a person centred approach and avoid discriminating against whole sections of society.”

It has led to a number of other mental health charities joining to condemn the coverage. 

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and Mark Winstanley, chief executive at Rethink Mental Illness said that calls for assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate - but assumptions about risk shouldn't be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness.

“There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis,” they said in a joint statement.  

“Headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.”

One in six people in work in the UK have experienced mental health conditions and hold positions at all levels within organisations, contributing positively to workplaces, the charities added.