Nutter drives plane into Alp

Don’t stigmatise depression after Germanwings crash, says top doctor

Doctor says…..well, it’s all a bit Heinz Kiosk, isn’t it?

I think what we’re looking for here is a way to correctly stigmatise depression. To the point where someone more likely (at whatever level of significance we feel happy with) to drive a plane into an Alp doesn’t get to fly while someone who has had a problem or two but is now over them (whether simply so or as a result of ongoing medication) does get to fly.

It’s a bit like that shouting match over discrimination, even racism. There’s times when discriminating on one ground or another just isn’t important and there’s times when it’s the entirely rational thing to do. Similarly with racism. Kaposi’s Sarcoma generally used to appear in middle aged men of Mediterranean descent. When very Waspish young men started presenting with it it was the consideration of race which told everyone that something new was going on.

Stigmatise, discriminate, they’re synonyms for select (of varying power). And yes, we really do want to be selecting but only on the right grounds.

64 thoughts on “Nutter drives plane into Alp”

  1. Since the doctors have hadrelatively safe smarties to dish out to the disconsolate, the diagnosis of depression has rocketted, whereas I am sure the insidence of incapacitating, fetalball, can’t function at all depression has not.
    I think the answer as to why an unhappy person would choose to murder 150 people when he offs himself depends on how they see other people. Psychopaths, narcissists and religious fanatics enjoy power over others’ lives which is why they are evil. Psychiatrists are trained to disregard evil and medicalize unhappiness, anomie, nihilism.
    Who knows? Maybe the shit was feeling ecstatically happy detonating the jet against the Alps?

  2. So Much for Subtlety

    Depression may make you want to kill yourself, but I find it hard to believe it would make you want to kill some random school girls. So much so I am not convinced they have the right explanation yet. Or at least something else must be at work.

    Maybe I am just too naive? It seems a literally unbelievable evil.

  3. Returning to the kind of discrimination that used to apply to this job might even drive market pilot salaries to the levels that the VC union believes aren’t adequate and are worth striking their employer into oblivion for.

    Supposedly only about 1 in 1000 applicants made it through to a job piloting planes (I wouldn’t have minded that as a job but know I would never have passed the medical). Nowadays almost anyone who can pay the fees gets in.

    Lufthansa even have a waiting list of qualified pilots waiting for jobs. Much has been made of “Tomato Andy” but working as a flight assistant on LH while waiting for a job opening in the cockpit is not remotely unusual. They shut flight training to new entrants regularly.

    So given there is, for some completely unfathomable reason, a seemingly limitless supply of people willing to fly around the world, shag a different stewardess every week, and get paid six figures for it, it’s clear they could be more discriminating than at present.

  4. Well, at a guess – which might be completely wrong – I’d say he’s the product of a piss-wet, lefty “liberal” society which does everything to infantilise people, ensures they rarely have to take responsibility for anything, discourages them from growing up, and leaves them utterly unprepared for the real world. David Thompson does a sterling job of highlighting this phenomenon in American and British academia, and the way the media is falling over itself to find any explanation other than he was a molly-coddled, selfish cunt who ought to have been filled in when he was a teenager to teach him to be less of a self-pitying brat would support this view.

    That this happened to a German is hardly a surprise: give it two weeks and we’ll hear he was traumatised by the Fukishima reactor, the Iraq War, or Shell’s Arctic drilling programme. I’d also not be surprised if his Union made damned sure nobody like him could be barred from flying, passenger safety be damned.

    Far from being a surprised, this whole episode looks to be the inevitable result of the manner in which we raise new humans in the modern west: they never actually grow a fucking pair.

  5. I find it hard to understand why anyone’s first (or early) response to this is to worry about the depressed. I would like to hold a large meeting somewhere for them and have them attend in aircraft flown by depressed pilots. Let’s see how keen they are not to “stigmatise” depression then.

    In fact, I don’t think anyone *really* gives a shit about stigmatising depressives.

    Some of those pretending to do so do do because they “work” in “mental health” and want the Magic Money Spigot to stay open. Others (eg Guardian commentators) are doing it as a means of moral grandstanding and posturing.

  6. @Interested,

    LH is going to have to go on a witch-hunt. All flight deck crew are likely to get closely scrutinised for mental health issues. Is this discriminatory? Probably, but since people with any form of mental instability are a higher risk of this kind of event than anyone else, it’s fair enough. There is adequate supply of non mentally-incapacitated people attracted to the job that we can exclude those who might well be capable but pose a potential (if extremely low) threat.

    The highest risk I see right now is that some nutter with similar issues gets inspired and does the same thing next week.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    When I was doing a lot of air travel for business I used to assume that the pilot’s self preservation instincts were as strong as, if not stronger, than mine which added to my safety. How naive has that turned out to be?

    Its easy to apply the PHd in hindsight to this case but given that pilots have to undergo fairly stringent physical health checks every year it does make me wonder why they don’t undergo equally stringent mental health testing and assessment every year.

  8. There has been a previous discussion on this blog about drone or even computer-piloted planes. A major (the major?) factor working against their introduction for passenger flights being passenger sentiment in favour of human control of their aircraft.
    I wonder if that sentiment may be shifting a little now.

  9. @Ironman,

    Any remote control system would be hackable. The supply of people who would like to hack such a system and would eventually succeed is pretty high.

  10. We still don’t know the suicide because depressed story is true. But someone else getting on the flight deck seems unlikely as per link below. Perhaps the autopilot and the cabin door could be hacked. Someone external crashing the plane–seems a tad far-fetched. Who else was on board that might have some bearing?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixEHV7c3VXs

  11. “Why should they not? What does cause trouble is saying that if you have ever had a history of depression then you should not be allowed to do whatever. That is wrong, as much as saying that people with a history of broken arms shouldn’t be allowed to do something.”

    He cannot be serious, he must be taking the piss. Does a history of broken arms suggest someone is a higher suicide risk and hence more likely to fly a plane full of screaming passengers into a mountain?

    I expect a little more from the UK’s “most senior psychiatrist” than a glib non sequitur and boilerplate identity politics.

    “There may have been some fault in the procedures that let this happen, but they are not allowed to fly.”

    They are not allowed to fly for four weeks. Hmm, that should do it. Oh wait, there was “some fault in the procedures”, that explains it. Let us just change the procedures and that will solve the problem because, you know, the experts are in charge. They are the same experts who were in charge last week but let’s not stigmatise them.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but we must apply the precautionary principle and collectivise our economies to stop the sea level in Madagascar rising 14 inches by 2050, but doubting psychiatric guesses, sorry assessments and not letting severely depressed pilots fly is verboten.

  12. Interested: “I find it hard to understand why anyone’s first (or early) response to this is to worry about the depressed. “

    Because the sort of single-minded sole-cause activists that get their names in the papers see ANYTHING – and I do really mean anything – as a vehicle for the advancement of their chosen identity group.

    They are, if anything, worse than the sort of self-absorbed fruitcake who takes a plane-load of innocents with him. Because there seems to be a limitless supply of ’em.

  13. Bullshit. I’ve been depressed, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking anyone else with me. That’s not depressed, that’s crazy.

    A plane doesn’t need to be remotely controlled, it just needs a self preservation instinct. I’m sorry Dave, you can let go of the stick now, because I’m not flying into the fucking landscape.

  14. I’m only going to make one contribution to this thread (learnt my lesson from the death penalty thread the other day).

    Basically, what Tim Newman, JuliaM and others have said.

    I’ve suffered periods of the crippling depression ljh mentioned above (and family/friends continue to watch me for early signs of relapse). I can’t believe that the actions of the pilot were due to the type of depression I’ve experienced.

    I could barely dress myself when at my lowest, was incapable of concentrating long enough to even read a newspaper. The thought that someone in the trough of a depressive episode could fly a plane is laughable.

    As JuliaM said, the single-issue obsessive a are just looking to get their cause tied in with this incident.

  15. I think what we’re looking for here is a way to correctly stigmatise depression.

    No, unless you want to brand depression as disgraceful or shameful.

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    Rob – “Does a history of broken arms suggest someone is a higher suicide risk and hence more likely to fly a plane full of screaming passengers into a mountain?”

    A history of broken arms suggests domestic violence to me.

    But his argument has a major logical flaw. I would not want someone with a broken arm flying my plane, if you don’t mind. They should go to hospital. Heal. Then they can fly. It is also easy to tell on an X-ray if someone has a broken arm or not. This man may have had depression, but there is no evidence he was healed in the same way he would have been had he broken his arm. Doctors don’t know how bad someone’s depression is except by asking them. That makes it a completely different risk.

  17. “as a result of ongoing medication”: but to test whether they were still taking their pills would be discriminatory, would it not?

  18. I’m sorry Dave, you can let go of the stick now, because I’m not flying into the fucking landscape.

    Until such time as the alternative is worse (eg. crashing into a building). Will the computer system be able to determine that?

  19. I think an assist goes to Islamicterrorism for this one, as without those cunits cockpits would not have been turned into impregnable fortresses.

  20. I sort of agree with “top doctor”. (Although I was in a decompression chamber once with a bloke who was quite clearly on the south pole of depression, and I slept with one eye open.)

    What “top doctor” seems to have missed is that this is clearly not just a case of a fit of the blues. Comparing what we know to the psychopathy check list the guy scores on all the items apart from those we don’t know about (parasitism and early life experiences).

  21. Ted S

    I know what you mean but was only suggesting something simple like the floor of this corridor is x000 feet and I’ll stay above it if it’s all the same to you. If the vitals are good there’s no reason to leave the corridor. If the vitals are not good, cabin depressurized, port engine on fire, fuel low, loosing altitude, then take the stick Dave and God be with you.

    There is already a car that won’t get too close to the vehicle in front I believe? Similar Idea. All I’m saying is you don’t need remote control to avoid deliberate destruction, just a system to prevent leaving a preset corridor. This would also prevent the fly out to sea until you runout of fuel scenario.

  22. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    As has previously mentioned, the pilot’s actions go farbeyond what is normally classed as depression. My unhelpful armchair diagnosis is Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  23. Heh, I’ve just remembered the old joke about the plane that only need a single pilot and a dog to fly it. What’s the dog for? To bite the pilot if he touches anything.

  24. Seems to me the difficult balance is how you make sure existing pilots who develop a mental health issue feel able to seek care. If they knew it could destroy their careers, they may not pursue the help they need, which would only make matters worse.

  25. What Glendorran said, with a marked respect for his courage and integrity for.sayimg it.

    There is a world of difference between depression – the most severe depression -and murdering 150 people. Talk of ‘stigmatising’ depression belittles both this appalling event AND depression.

    However, introducing notions like ‘wet liberals, not growing up’ and not ‘taking responsibility’ is similarly silly in this context. ‘Not growing up’ doesn’t really explain flying 150 souls into a mountain, does it.

  26. I was recently at a dinner party where someone bemoaned the cruelty of people topping themselves where their kids or spouse would find their body.
    Another guest said he had been suicidal some months earlier and had tried to jump out of the rear door of a car belting along a motorway but a child lock stopped him. He said that at the time he didn’t care about people in other vehicles being killed while avoiding or being hit by his body, or by the trauma he’d inflict on the car’s driver. He said he was totally immersed in his own misery and anyway after topping himself he’d be dead and so beyond guilt.
    Maybe that’s what happened here – a sudden decision to commit suicide combined with an indifference to the fate of the living.
    If that’s generally true, airlines need to screen out low empathy people liable to suicide rather than those with depression (yes I know the sets overlap).

  27. However, introducing notions like ‘wet liberals, not growing up’ and not ‘taking responsibility’ is similarly silly in this context. ‘Not growing up’ doesn’t really explain flying 150 souls into a mountain, does it.

    Nothing explains flying 150 souls into a mountain, hence the thread. Suggesting perhaps the pilot acted irresponsibly is hardly “silly” now, is it?

    As for “not growing up”, the closest parallel I can think of are the teenagers in the USA who massacre a classroom full of kids before turning a gun on themselves. Again, hardly “silly”.

  28. I’m sorry Tim, but hearimg abouy the murder of 150 people and.respondong “At a guess he’s the product of piss wet liberal etc..” and then for good measure linking his action to his German nationality ( you did, all are free to go back and read from 10.33am) most certainly IS silly. As unfortunately is your decision to double down on ‘not growing up’ by introducing American high school massacres.

  29. BTW Tim, you are one of the last people on this blog I would have expected to follow that route; really.

  30. If we’ve come to the point where pretty much the only reason for air crashes is deliberate suicide/murder by the pilot then we can truly congratulate ourselves.

    With hindsight, we should be less forgiving of trainee pilots who suffer mental illness, but cut some slack for longer-serving ones to take time off for depression following a divorce/bereavement etc.

  31. As unfortunately is your decision to double down on ‘not growing up’ by introducing American high school massacres.

    There’s an obvious parallel. The pilot is even on record as saying “one day everyone will know my name”. If you think drawing this parallel is silly, I’m at a loss as to why you’re participating in this thread.

  32. BTW Tim, you are one of the last people on this blog I would have expected to follow that route; really.

    I don’t see many others following it. But consider that I have lived and worked among many, many different cultures and nationalities and have drawn the conclusion that the type of self-pitying, blame-the-world approach to life which is possibly behind this tragedy can only be readily found in adults who are both born in the west and under (roughly) 40 years of age. It exists elsewhere, but is very rare: the west seems to be actively nurturing it.

  33. According to the DT, the German newspaper Bild said that Lubitz would “probably go down as one of the worst mass murderers in German history” …

  34. Roue le Jour – “’I’ve been depressed, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking anyone else with me. ”

    Indeed, in fact one of the symptoms associated with depression can be too much concern for the plight of others.

  35. No Tim. “Silly” is linking this nighmare to western liberalism.
    Look, I agree with your overall world view. I agree that many people seem infantalised and self-obsessed. Only today I heard Northern Ireland voters describing themselves as “disillusioned” with politics and “where is the peace dividend?” and it seems to be beyond parody. To draw the line though from a social malaise to a maniac in a plane…no, that just doesn’t work.

  36. @Rob – “cockpits would not have been turned into impregnable fortresses.”

    Yes, i’d thought about that. I was wondering what does the pilot do when he returns to the cabin door to find himself locked out? Immediate danger will likely clear his thinking, so how long before he starts to break down the door ? 30s ? 3min ? Not long I’d guess.

    How long does it take to break down one of those doors? ( does one co-opt 3 big blokes from the passenger cabin ?) The door is strengthened, but its an aeroplane, innately lightweight, thin aluminium, whatever the door is made of, its mounted into something pretty flimsy – it won’t stand people kicking it for very long.

    How long did they have? How long did they need?

  37. So Much for Subtlety

    johnny bonk – “How long does it take to break down one of those doors? ( does one co-opt 3 big blokes from the passenger cabin ?) The door is strengthened, but its an aeroplane, innately lightweight, thin aluminium, whatever the door is made of, its mounted into something pretty flimsy – it won’t stand people kicking it for very long.”

    As I understand it from the reporting of the Black Box, the pilot tried knocking, tried breaking it down. Then he got an axe. I assume something for fire fighting. Eventually he resorted to begging. Of course by that time, the passengers had noticed something was not right. That is when the screaming started.

    I hope there is a First Circle of Hell. Or at least a Third.

  38. @smfs – thanks for the info.

    So it seems the pilot did not “co-opt three big blokes from the passenger cabin”, but he did get an axe. Do we know for how long he tried brute force?

    Do we know what those doors are made of and how they are mounted? Or anything about how we might break one down or why we can’t?

    The engineers that build those planes are clever, but the planes are only made of thin aluminium.

  39. So Much for Subtlety

    johnny bonk – “So it seems the pilot did not “co-opt three big blokes from the passenger cabin”, but he did get an axe. Do we know for how long he tried brute force?”

    Don’t rely on me for a thing. I am actively trying not to learn about this incident. All I know is what I hear before I can change channels.

    “Do we know what those doors are made of and how they are mounted? Or anything about how we might break one down or why we can’t?”

    9-11 is to blame. They made the doors tougher so no one could get in. They are designed to keep out deranged Islamic terrorists. So I would guess there is nothing a pilot and three big guys from the passenger list could do.

  40. “o I would guess there is nothing a pilot and three big guys from the passenger list could do.” – i’m kinda suggesting that given the weight and thin aluminium limits of an aeroplane there’s nothing the engineers can do to stop 3 big blokes from kicking the door down, just wondering if anybody knows anything about how they build those security doors.

  41. As I understand it – he had a sick note for the day in question…. was it for a sprained ankle? an inflamed eye? a bad back? One has to wonder if he had a medication regime?

    Mental illness is a very taboo subject. In my brushes with it (as a close observer) it strikes me that much as medics like to label things – the reality is that many cases labelled the same manifested quite different forms of aberrent behavior – a lot of it is personal. I have been in work situations where people have “flipped” – imho disturbed, medicated folk should be shown compassion and given tasks where they are out of harms way.

    As I understand it there is a serious and ongoing problem with long haul cabin staff mental health – to the extent that BA have their own team of “shrinks” who minister to the affected souls who are deployed onto “light, non flying duties”

    We had an unstable medicated Prime Minister – that worked out well eh?

  42. So Much for Subtlety

    tomo – “We had an unstable medicated Prime Minister – that worked out well eh?”

    He did win the war. Despite his battles with depression. And really quite heroic self medication.

  43. Until such time as the alternative is worse (eg. crashing into a building). Will the computer system be able to determine that?

    Or you’re trying to land in a river because the engines just failed.

    If you’re going to have pilots in a plane, you really have to trust them; there are too many ways to cause rapid mass death even if there’s another pilot sitting beside them. All you can really do is minimize the odds of a crazy person having their hands on the controls in the first place.

    Besides which, locking the door was just a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. The only hijacking I remember post-9/11 was by the pilot, because, if anyone else tried it, the passengers would no longer meekly go along, but would beat them to death.

  44. So Much for Sublety

    imho disturbed, medicated folk should be shown compassion and given tasks where they are out of harms way.

    erm… checkmate?

  45. To draw the line though from a social malaise to a maniac in a plane…no, that just doesn’t work.

    Then what does work? This is unprecedented. I’ve hazarded a guess – and said I might be wrong – based on the closest parallel I can think of. You can stand there and say “oh that doesn’t work, it’s silly” but unless you can offer an alternative or actually explain why I’m wrong, you’re not contributing much to the thread (hence my puzzlement as to why you’re participating in it). Obviously I’m not an expert and I’m just throwing an idea out there, and am prepared to accept I might be wrong, but not by someone who just says “no, you’re wrong” and nothing else.

  46. @Tim Newman: I also thought of the US teenage massacres once it became apparent that the pilot was on anti-depressants. They seem to be a common factor in those events, quite possibly they may be a factor here too.

  47. “And lost much of the Empire, handed half of Europe to Stalin, and was kicked out of power as soon as the British people were given a vote.”

    The alternative being telling all those uppity darkies to do as they are told, launching an attack on the Soviet army that had just steamrollered the 3rd Reich, and ruling the UK as an unelected dictator one assumes?

  48. @Theophrastus, PF. 1945 was “year zero” here. It’s nothing to do with historical amnesia, the past is well known and people shudder at it. It’s to do with Germany becoming – having to become – a completely different and new country after that particular horror. He probably is the biggest mass murderer (to date) in the history of the federal republic.

    @johnny bonk,

    How do you get four feet from four different large blokes on one narrow cockpit door simultaneously, with weight of said blokes behind each leg? Have you actually been on an A320 (or any commercial aircraft) recently?

  49. Cockpit doors are reinforced with Kevlar. A GPMG will cut through it, but that brings problems of its own.

    @Tim N Ironman has appointed himself the moral conscience of this blog. His arguments start with “No it’s not” and devolve to “You are a racist”. Best not to engage.

  50. But, BiG, regarding 1945 as Year Zero is surely selective historical amnesia, if not schizophrenia.

  51. BiG

    Tip to Bild editor – assuming there is no denial in play, insert “modern” before “German history”. The bill’s in the post.

    (though in fairness, I only saw the DT translation)…

  52. Actually Tim, I would say dismissing far – fetched theories out of hand is contributing significantly.

    I would say that there will be a basket of contributing factors, any number of ‘reasons’. The answer will be very complicated, certainly beyond a forum like this. But then the original post didn’t attempt to find a reason did it.

  53. Actually Tim, I would say dismissing far – fetched theories out of hand is contributing significantly.

    So would I, only how this is relevant to your actual contributions thus far remain a mystery to me. Unless you think that attributing the actions of an individual to aspects of the society from whence he came is “far-fetched”, in which case we can dispatch with an awful lot of contemporary sociology.

  54. I would say that there will be a basket of contributing factors, any number of ‘reasons’. The answer will be very complicated, certainly beyond a forum like this.

    Quite. But that does not preclude us from discussing it and offering up theories, does it? None of us is here claiming to be an expert of writing on the subject for money. It’s just a bunch of people throwing ideas around, this is obvious. If you want a proper answer, go to another forum (if one exists). But I have no idea why you’d choose to participate in a discussion of a topic which you have deemed beyond the forum in which it takes place.

  55. @PF, Bild uses really big letters for its headlines, so has to use fewer of them.

    You can take the piss out of Bild (it’s going after the same market as the Sun in the UK), but they are generally spot on and earlier than everyone else when it comes to facts.

  56. […]in which case we can dispatch with an awful lot of contemporary sociology.

    Right, you’ve convinced me; I agree with Ironman.

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