Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fly Those Friendly Skies

We've talked before about whether having the diagnosis of a mental illness should prevent a person from pursuing certain careers. We've also mentioned that pilots, in particular, can not be on psychotropic medications. One concern is that a depressed pilot might not seek treatment because s/he fears losing her job. Is it better to have a pilot with untreated mental illness, or one on medication?

The Wall Street Journal, Shirley S. Wang and Melanie Trottman write that the FAA has reconsidered this policy and will allow pilots to fly if they are being treated with Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, or Prozac. They write:

The new policy doesn't mean pilots who want to begin taking one of the medications can get in the cockpit right away. Before being granted a waiver by a physician certified by the FAA, a pilot must be considered "satisfactorily treated" for 12 months; in the meantime, he or she will be grounded.

For pilots who have been secretly taking antidepressants, the FAA is offering a grace period. The agency said it wouldn't take action against such pilots if they come forward within six months. However, pilots with a recent case of depression or who want to begin a new medication regimen will be subject to the one-year waiting period, according to FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette. "We're really looking for stability," she said.

Grounded for 12 months? Seems like a long time. What do grounded pilots do? Do they get paid? Is this really destigmatization?


Anonymous said...

Just having a diagnosis of certain mental illnesses or being admitted or seen in hospital can mean having your license to drive taken away until the authorities are satisfied that you are stable. What it takes to satisfy them is not always clear and in the meanwhile people live without a way to get to work, transport their children, you name it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher and I've worried about my administration finding out about my bouts with mental illness since I've started working. My worst time is during summer vacation, so my secret went hidden until this year. Long story short- the police came to the school to take my to the hospital for a psych admission after being called by my therapist. Thankfully all of the students were gone by then.

My administration found out a lot that day. I was gone from work for 7 days. Before I went to the hospital my principal was very clear about telling me that my job was not in jeopardy and for that I am grateful. Since I've been back, no one has said anything about it nor asked me how I am doing. While that can be a little awkward in an elephant in the room sort of fashion, I was very surprised at the support shown to me by my employer.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that the pilots have good, strong unions. The union will see that antidepressant-popping pilots are somehow partially paid for being grounded. I guess those on lithium can never fly again. Is it destigmatization? No Way! But it's where we're at in this country.

tracy said...

Anon # 2 Geeze, that's harsh. Did your "therapist" even call you first? No wonder i "trust no one" but Psychiatrists for mental health care.

Especially creepy emergency room social workers...they have more power than Psychiatrists...and that really if they deserve that kind of life changing power...spoken from experience.

Anonymous said...

tracy- Yeah, I knew my therapist was calling the police- but I agree with you on the hospital social worker comment- they can be pretty creepy and have WAY too much power. Several bad run-ins with those characters too...

But honestly, I have had bad experiences with psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, etc. so I think it comes down to the individual you are working with. But...I do think hospital social workers are the worst.

tracy said...

Wow! Thanks sooo much, Anon...i actually feel..."Validated". Seriously.

Thank you.

Ha. Word validation is "rabiese".

Anonymous said...

I am a doctor working in occupational medicine (not in USA). I am depressed, sometimes suicidal, and I certify pilots. I have the power to stop them flying, and take away their livelihood, but I continue to work, often with my judgement clouded by depression. I believe I would be sacked if my employer found out about my mental illness. What is worse, my psychiatrist is happy to certify me fit to fly. I have made the decision not to fly while I am depressed.