The Offender

Depression and Suicide: Societies Problem


Saturday, June 20, 2015

                Depression and mental illness is not a subject that normally gets a whole lot of main stream attention.  Until it is in your face and won’t get out.  I have been keeping up to date with the stories in France about Lubitz and the terrible thing that he did.  I have read articles from “experts” on every subject that could possibly have anything to do with the crash.  Except for one.  I have not heard from a single person that actually knows what it is like to be an ordinary person who suffers from depression; or any other mental illness for that matter.  You can show me all of the degrees you want, but until you have experienced it you might as well throw those papers in the trash (no disrespect).  So here is a quick rundown of my resume:

                I have had problems with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since I can remember.  Officially diagnosed at 15, I was promptly put on medication which I still have to take 15 years later.  I also started to suffer from depression around the age of 10.  My moods and behavior deteriorated to the point that every day of my life became devastating to myself and the people around me.  Much of the depression is a direct consequence of the ocd, but somehow that does not seem to make it any happier.

                Am I proud of that resume?  Not particularly.  In fact, I have gone to great lengths over the course of my life to hide those things.  Everything from hiding my medications to trying to make my rituals look like normal behavior, it is all extremely stressful.  I generally only tell the people that I live with about these problems (eventually they would start asking questions anyways) and only on occasion will I discuss them unless something is really bothering me.  Once people notice that those pills that you take every morning are anti-depressants, their general demeanor towards you changes; at least for a little while.  They certainly cannot be blamed.  Anti-depressants are prescribed for a whole list of things.  But there is a huge portion of that list that has a heavy stigma attached to it.  The general nature of the problems that I have make it unthinkable to disclose this information to a large number of people.  Especially the people that I depend on for money.

                So am I surprised that Lubitz did not tell his employers that he suffered from severe depression?  More than that, am I surprised that he never disclosed his suicidal tendencies in the past?  I would be shocked if he had given his employers a heads up on that.  Not that I am condoning his actions.  On the contrary, I find what Mr. Lubitz did to be selfish and despicable.  But if you have never had to deal with keeping such a painful secret your entire life, you probably don’t understand what it is like to worry about being discovered; well that and the actual problem itself.  When your symptoms are bad (which can be a very significant portion of your life) and you have to go through the motions to make it look like you don’t want to shrivel up and die, it compounds that feeling by a factor of multiple degrees.  But you cannot let it show to the people that you work with.  You cannot disclose it to the HR department.  There are laws to protect people like me, but a significant amount of time and money has gone into figuring out how to get around those laws.  Would I be dismissed from my current position if my employer was aware of my problems?  Probably not, in fact a lot of things would probably start to make a little more sense to them.  But I would probably feel differently if I was a pilot.  But regardless, I am not particularly interested in finding out. 

                Of course I do not think that people who are actively suicidal or who are showing any suicidal tendencies should be put behind the wheel of any heavy machinery, but telling anybody that you have been thinking about suicide automatically brings repercussions.  And it just so happens that those repercussions are the things that terrify you the most; drawing attention to yourself and your problems.  Where is Kevin?  He did not show up for work today.  Turns out Kevin has been placed in a facility for 24 hour observation.  Oh I am sure it is nothing…  Can anybody see why that would be frightening to someone that wants more than anything to hide those problems? 

                Are there solutions?  In most cases yes.  With weekly therapy, medication, and regular monitoring I would have been happy to have Mr. Lubitz be my co-pilot.  People that suffer with these problems can be a liability in certain cases, especially when the symptoms are at their worst, but we make accommodations for physically and mentally handicapped people.  Maybe it is time to start making accommodations for emotionally handicapped people as well; aside from displacing them from the most normal life they can hope for.  A little bit of understanding and help could have helped prevent this and many other suicides.  It would certainly change my life and make it much better.  It probably would have done the same for Mr. Lubitz and the people on his plane.