Over on Clinical Psychiatry News, I wrote a an article about still-unfolding story of the Germanwings co-pilot who deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people. Please surf over to read Was Mental Illness a Factor is the Germanwings Crash. I'll warn you that the facts aren't all in yet, so the article is purely speculative, and it's possible we will never know why this co-pilot decided to crash this plane into a mountain. I also tell you that as a psychiatrist, I don't know why someone commits mass murder; I've had no experience with patients who kill, much less kill 149 other people, nor have any of my colleagues or mentors.
Tawnydog1 may be right in her tweet above, the New York Times already has a front page article calling for screening for pilot mental health issues. Since the event of pilots crashing their planes into mountains is extremely rare (1 in many millions) and the pilot was said to have had an eye problem, I'm wondering why they aren't calling for better screening for eye problems? Really, we don't know anything yet: we've heard nothing about the stresses in this man's life, whether he was telling friends and family that he was having delusions, why he took time off from training, what his illnesses were, and how he dealt with anger.
I'm going to go out on a limb here: people commit suicide for a number of reasons, one of them being a way to escape the unbearable pain of depression. People kill for a number of reasons, one of them being because they are angry. There are many mentally ill people in the world and there are many angry people in the world. There are very few mass murderers. We need to stop using "mental illness" as the endpoint to answer the question "Why?" when a mass murder happens. Mental illness is not an explanation, and this may be a problem that is so rare that there will never be a reasonable response to this event other than to say that for any number of reasons, pilots should not be alone in the cockpit of a commercial passenger plane.