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Wings of Fancy

Germanwings pilot’s alleged depression now considered cause of crash

The stigma of mental health has been reinforced due to the reporting techniques that place blame on pilot’s depression in the Germanwings crash.

   Mental health has always been a sore topic for people. From the days where people suffering from mental health disorders were institutionalized or even murdered, to today, when people with mental health issues may be embarrassed to seek out help. This reluctance is, in part, due to the stigma that surrounds mental disorders and those who suffer from them.

“Crazy,” “Dangerous” and “Killer,” are all epithets that have been used to describe the pilot who, apparently intentionally, crashed a Germanwings flight in the French Alps last week. Yes, crashing a plane to kill the 150 people inside it is murder by all accounts.

However, when it came out after the crash that this pilot, Andreas Lubitz, suffered from, and had sought treatment for, severe depression, journalists pounced it. The name calling and media circus centering on mental health began.

The fact that this man suffered from suicidal tendencies does not in any way mean that he was inherently a killer. The fact that he was suffering from depression does not in any way make this man crazy.

However, journalists, when reporting the story, seized on his depression as the reason he killed 150 people to sensationalize the story. Journalists reporting on this event worsened the stigma attached to mental health by connecting depression and evil.

A Daily Mail article, which describes the crash and the ensuing investigation is titled, “Mass Murderer who deliberately crashed Germanwings plane had to stop training due to depression and burnout.” This title links his depression with mass murder.

The French prime minister Manuel Valls called the murders: “Criminal. Crazy. Suicidal.” As a result, the media latched onto his words and used it to somehow link depression to craziness and craziness to murder.

Therese Borchard, a mental health advocate and writer for Everyday Health wrote, “there is mental health, and there is murder. The two shouldn’t be confused with each other.” The depression and suicidal tendencies are now being correlated with violence and danger, when in reality, the two are not connected. In fact, those who want to commit suicide usually do it alone.

To crash a plane with passengers was not an act of depression or of suicide, and to link the two of them together is a false correlation, perpetrated by media. Mass murdering acts are atypical of those with mental health. According to one study reported in The Atlantic, only 5% of violent crime is associated with mental health.

To lump all mental health issues together with murder and danger is not only incorrect, but also deeply unfair to those suffering from mental health disorders,

It is also dangerous to those who have not yet been diagnosed. It increases stigma attached to mental health, linking mental health with insanity, decreasing the chances that people who do need help for mental health are going to seek that help. It furthers the impression that we have as a society that those with mental health disorders are unstable and unfit to work, when in reality this is far from the case. In addition, these names disturb the already fragile self-esteem of sufferers, causing further isolation and shame.

There is a large conglomeration of different factors that is called a person’s psyche. To pin down an act on just one of the factors, in this case depression, is falsely biased and incorrect. To perform such an act, something else must have been affecting Lubitz besides his depression.

Therefore, to call a person dangerous and violent because of depression, or any other mental disorder is incorrect, and not only incorrect, the way that journalists have reported the Germanwings crash is detrimental to society and the shaky peace we have made with mental health disorders.