November 09, 2017 Articles

What Can Be Done About Pilot Depression, Suicide, and Other Flight Crew Mental Health Issues?

By Scott Brooksby and Brian J. Alexander

Mental health problems are nearing epidemic levels in the developed world. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and claims over 43,000 lives per year. Not surprisingly, if it is an issue in the mainstream, you can bet it is a problem in the cockpit. It is true that pilot mental fitness—and its connection to human factors analysis—has always been a critical aspect of aviation safety, but recent events suggest it is becoming even more important to examine ways to identify mental health problems that may affect pilot performance and safety in the cockpit. As Jet Blue founder and former chief executive officer David Neeleman suggested, “nobody ever thought about having to protect the passengers from the pilots.”

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