What follows is the very end of an account of depression sent to us by a Pilot. In the full account, he talks honestly about the signs and symptoms he experienced, the process by which he received treatment - and how his experience of therapy was nothing like the media stereotype. We join him as he summarises his account:
"So why have I decided to write this? Firstly to highlight that mental health problems occur in our community with a frequency we might not believe, given that the symptoms are often hidden. You might encounter a problem or a colleague might be suffering greatly even though they seem fine. Maybe you could just check with someone if they seem a bit down or preoccupied? A lot can often be hidden beneath what seems to be a calm exterior. As pilots we often shy away from emotional discussion as we are selected to be more task based. However few other people can understand the demands our chosen profession places upon us as we ourselves can.
Secondly, if you hold up your hand for help, there are people there to help you. My company (especially occupational heath and my fleet manager) and the CAA were enormously supportive and my case shows there is a way back from what seemed like a very dark situation the day I called in sick with my initial problem. When I called in sick, there was no company Pilot Assistance Network or Peer Support Programme to turn to. The feeling of loneliness and despair as I sat in my car wondering who to turn to for help was totally overwhelming. Just by luck I got through to a doctor who could help, but it was just by chance that I got the instant help and advice I needed. Had there been a PAN, I would have had a helpline to contact which could have guided me towards help whilst maintaining strict confidentiality.
Finally, I wanted to start to try to reduce the stigma of mental illness in our peer group by writing about my experiences. Pilots are only human and like all humans, a substantial proportion of us will experience mental health problems of some kind in our lives. The more we highlight our experiences, the less will be the stigma regarding these often hidden illnesses, and this can only help facilitate self-reporting, diagnosis and successful treatment.
FULL ACCOUNT AVAILABLE ON SUBSCRIPTION SITE ONLY.
"I therefore found myself at the CAA’s Aviation House, sitting in the same waiting room where I had sat some 27 years previously when I had been granted my initial class1 medical as a young trainee pilot."