Aviation has moved to preventative mode
Young UND student’s suicide crash ASKS
WHAT ABOUT PILOT MENTAL HEALTH
It’s happened again– John Alan Hauser of Chicago died when his University of North Dakota training plane crashed on October 18, 2021. As detailed below, sadly, his parents revealed that his death was likely a suicide. PILOT MENTAL HEALTH HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FROM THE HORRENDOUS GERMANWINGS SUICIDE on 24 March 2015.
Thanks to the new preventative safety discipline adopted by the aviation industry, catalyzed by ICAO, and evangelized by the FAA, risk identification focuses on future problems rather than responding to the most recent crash. As to mental health, this most recent tragic suicide causes one to wonder, WHAT, if anything, is being done; here are a few waypoints—
- Response To Germanwings’ Pilot Mental Health Issue—Not More Examinations, But Constant Management/Peer Awareness? APRIL 2, 2015
- EASA Germanwings’ Crash Report Poses Pilot Mental Health “Fixes” & Implementation Issues JULY 24, 2015
- EASA’s Swift Response To Germanwings Is Good, But There Is Still Much To Do JULY 24, 2015
- Second Opinions Are VoicedAbout Solutions To Pilot Mental Health Issue NOVEMBER 11, 2015
- BEA Interim Report On Germanwings Looks Long For Solutions—Immediate Union Peer-To-Peer Good Answer MARCH 15, 2016
- Pilot Mental Health—The Thoughtful, Well-Reasoned FAA ARC Recommendations JUNE 13, 2016
- “ENHANCE AME TRAINING
- PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING
- PILOT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
- AIR CARRIER EDUCATION…
- INFORMATIONAL MATERIAL ON PILOT SUPPORT PROGRAMS …
- MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL REPORTING.
- TWO PERSONS ON FLIGHTDECK AND FLIGHTDECK ACCESSAIRCRAFT DESIGN STANDARDS …
“Hundreds of pilots currently flying are managing depressive symptoms perhaps without the possibility of treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts. This study found 233 (12.6%) airline pilots meeting depression threshold and 75 (4.1%) pilots reporting having suicidal thoughts. Although results have limited generalizability, there are a significant number of active pilots suffering from depressive symptoms. We recommend airline organizations increase support for preventative mental health treatment. Future research will evaluate additional risk factors of depression such as sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances.
…according to a report published by the University of Dublin’s Lived Experience & Wellbeing Project, more than half of pilots in the study met a threshold for mild depression. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of aviation workers said that they have obtained support to manage their wellbeing and mental health from their employer. Some 92% said that they are in need of this help.
“This is entirely unsatisfactory. At a time of huge need, very little has been done,” said Dr Joan Cahill, Principal Investigator of the project and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Innovative Human Systems.[at the same Trinity College Dublin.]
Now, déjà vu–‘He felt trapped’: Parents of UND student killed in plane crash push for more mental health help for pilots. The parents of John Hauser raise the question of whether the regulatory system, which penalizes pilots for seeking help for these issues.
“‘If you can do anything for me, try to change the FAA rules so that other young pilots don’t have to go through what I went through,'” Alan Hauser recalled.
Days after his death, his parents launched the John A. Hauser Mental Health in Aviation Initiative Fund . [PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING.]
The FAA and ALPA, both attended this Pilot Mental Health Summit, have had success implementing the HIMS. Program, perhaps it can be expanded to cover all pilots?
By Adam Kurtz
December 15, 2021, 07:31 PM
For UND administrators, participating in the Aviation Mental Health Summit on Wednesday, Dec. 15, was more than a chance to meet and talk with other collegiate aviation programs and government entities. It was an opportunity to look for solutions to a problem that runs throughout the aviation industry.
UND arranged the summit after John Hauser, a sophomore commercial aviation student, was killed in a plane crash on Oct. 18. An initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found no mechanical problems that would have caused the crash, and Hauser’s parents later told UND that he was dealing with mental health concerns.
The summit took place in Chicago, where UND administrators met with representatives from several other colleges with flight training programs, members of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Airline Pilots Association. UND aerospace students, faculty and administrators participated in the summit online, from the ballroom in the Memorial Union.
“This was an incredible event, hosted by UND,” said [Dr. Andrew] Armacost, [President of UND] who was in Chicago for the event. “The conversation was rich there were many perspectives shared, and ideas about specific initiatives that we can start addressing. I challenge each of the participants at the close of the meeting to continue reflecting upon the discussion and to continue generating ideas for how we can solve this critical problem.”
Also attending from UND was [Dr.] Elizabeth Bjerke, associate dean of aerospace. Bjerke moderated a panel of experts in mental health in the aviation industry.
[Dr.]Robert Kraus, dean of aerospace at UND, spoke to the Herald the day before the summit. He attended the summit online, and led the event on UND’s campus. He said he was taking a goal-oriented approach to the gathering.
“We’re trying not just having a bunch of people get together and talk,” Kraus said. “We do want solutions. What’s the low hanging fruit, what are the things that we can implement soon?”
Kraus said UND would like to hire another counselor, who would nominally work with the UND Counseling Center, but be physically placed with the aerospace college. That counselor would also need to be certified in Human Intervention Motivation Study – called HIMS.
“These are the doctors and therapists that get involved when there is substance abuse or alcohol abuse, or mental health treatment,” Kraus said.
Kraus also discussed the idea of implementing a peer-mentorship program, with the idea of getting students to talk to one another, if they are experiencing difficulty. UND could go a step further, and get those mentors some training, possibly a mental health first aid course sometimes offered by Altru Hospital. Kraus said he recently participated in that program.
“About a dozen of us took that and it was fantastic,” Kraus said. “I would actually highly recommend for people that are involved in mentoring and working with others, that that program is really good.”
Central to the issue of mental health in aviation is the stigma associated with seeking help. Kraus said student pilots are hesitant to seek help for mental health related issues because they are afraid they may be grounded. Getting grounded means once they have completed a course of treatment and have been cleared to fly again, they graduate later, and are behind others in establishing seniority when they begin working. The airline industry operates on seniority Kraus said, which can be a stressor for students.
“In the big scheme of things, in a lifespan, it’s not that big of a deal,” Kraus said. “But when you’re focused on finishing and getting to the airlines as soon as you can, a six-month grounding can be devastating in some cases.”
But that stigma also extends throughout the industry. Commercial pilots have the benefit of a pilot union which can protect their jobs, but if they need to take time off to take care of their mental health, they are also missing out on establishing or maintaining that seniority. Coming back from a period of three or six months of not flying may mean missing out on flying a desirable route, or even a plane with passengers.
Kraus said the summit is a way to highlight those stressors students and pilots’ experience.
The summit featured a number of speakers, including a video message from Stephen Dickson, administrator of FAA. A number of colleges were also in attendance, including Southern Illinois University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; Western Michigan University; Auburn University; Purdue University and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Those colleges are usually UND’s competitors, when it comes to attracting students. When it comes to addressing mental health concerns in aviation, Kraus said they are anything but.
“There is great camaraderie and collaboration between collegiate aviation programs,” he said. “It’s refreshing to see that communication take place.”
Both physicians with training in mental health.
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