Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 10th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, April 10, 2015
The recent crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 has
raised questions about who is mentally fit to fly a
plane. Obviously, airline policies may need to be
revised in response to the tragedy that took 150 lives.
I mourn for all the families and send my prayers to
However, in reading pieces about new proposed reg-
ulations, I fear the industry will become like the legal
sector, where strict procedures to maintain mental-
health fitness have discouraged both law students and
established attorneys from getting the help they need
for a mood disorder.
"In some states, law students who report that they
have a mental health condition as part of the character
and fitness investigation may be precluded from passing
the bar," Timothy Clement, MPH, Scattergood Fellow
on Stigma Reduction, told me.
"In many other states the student will have to furnish
his or her treatment records in order to pass. This type
of exclusion is based on inaccurate stereotypes and has
a chilling effect on law students seeking diagnosis and
Have the regulations empowered this group of
professionals to seek help? Consider these
statistics compiled by the Dave Nee Foundation:
• Entering law school, law students have a
psychological profile similar to that of the general
public. After law school, 20 per cent to 40 per cent
have a psychological dysfunction.
• Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from
depression than non-lawyers.
• Lawyers rank fifth in incidence of suicide by
• Lawyers are the most frequently depressed
occupational group in the United States.
"At the Dave Nee Foundation, as we travel across
the country visiting law students, we have found a high
percentage of the students will not seek help because
they fear professional consequences," says executive
director Rachael Barrett.
"While character and fitness concerns are real, law
school administrators are available to help students
through the process and will encourage students to
It s not that I don t understand the case for safety.
I certainly do. John Grohol, PsyD, CEO and founder of
PsychCentral.com, brought up a good point in his blog
the other day: "Anyone responsible for a transportation
vehicle---such as train engineers, subway conductors,
and bus drivers---has the power to cause great havoc
(and possibly even death) if they re upset and not
thinking clearly," he writes.
Yes, there is safety. And then there s stigma, which
unfortunately always seems to be attached to safety.
Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot that is believed to have
intentionally crashed the plane, has become the new
poster boy for depression, which means, ladies and
gentlemen, it has just gotten harder to be a person with
a mood disorder in any profession, whether you are
busting your butt to get better or not. It doesn t really
matter how many kale smoothies you drink, how much
fish oil you take, how often you do yoga, or whether
or not you spend your entire paycheck on cognitive
behavioral therapy, because I have found that there is
no nuance when it comes to the topic of mental health.
You are either are "cray-cray" or you re not. And if
you are, especially if you are one of the ten per cent
of Americans who take antidepressants, I sure would
bury those bottles deep in your purse for the next, oh,
six months, until this blows over, because you don t
want anyone finding out.
I think this tragedy, like so many others, has people
asking the wrong question. It s not, "What regulations
can we put in place to keep the public safe?" It should
be, "How can we best encourage all kinds of professionals
to get the help they need and to adhere to the treatment
Can workplaces discriminate
against depressed employees?
plans agreed upon with their doctor?"
I d like to turn this public perception of mood disorders
around in the next ten years because I don t want my
kids to have to pick their professions based on speculative
mental-fitness questionnaires. I don t want their career
to be influenced by answering the questions: Does
mental illness run in your family? Has your mother
ever taken you to see a psychologist when you were
young? At that rate, we will have become a society
divided in three: cray-crays, non-cray-crays, and lots
and lots of liars. (everydayhealth.com)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
How can we best encourage all kinds of professionals to get the help they need
and to adhere to the treatment plans agreed upon with their doctor?
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