Monday, June 29, 2009
Pilots Fighting Depression
I have heard many stories from fellow pilots who suffer from depression and did not know that it was a problem until they went to renew their medical. I recall the story of one gentleman who had filled out his form for the doctor and listed "prozac" as a medication he was on. The doctor looked at the form and told the pilot to come back in a couple of days and fill out his medical for leaving the medication listed off of the form.
I think this is one of the most dangerous instances I have heard of. In this case there was a medical doctor telling a person he had only seen one time to go off of medications cold turkey. This medications had been prescribed by a physician who knew the individual much better than the FAA medical examiner.
This is just one example in who knows how many stories of pilots who are forced to hide their disease. In this case there was a person who suffered from depression and was getting the help he needed. After being on medications long enough to do him so good there was an FAA examiner telling him to go cold turkey. This is almost like putting a loaded gun into a person's hands.
There has been much written on both sides as to why pilots on SSRI's should or should not be allowed to fly. But no matter which side of the fence someone stands on this story I have told is dangerous no matter how you look at it. Prozac is not a medication to drop cold turkey without being monitored. From what I have read a scenario like this can cause great confusion in the feelings of the patient. There are many documented cases of patients abruptly stopping the use of Prozac or similar medications without the proper medical treatment. The documentation has been recored in the patients autopsy after he or she committed suicide.
Are depressed people suicidal? Some are yes. But do not label everyone who has depression as suicidal. Medications do not cause a person to commit suicide. But improper medication usage and lack of monitoring of these meds can be dangerous.
All too many times I have heard of people stopping their meds because of the judgement that is passed on them by society. Often times this judgement comes from family members of others who are close to the patient. Someone who suffers from depression does not need more shame in his or her life. Victims of depression are already hard enough on themselves. Putting on top of their own shame the judgement of others can lead to a catastrophic event.
I had a neighbor who is a private pilot who recently found out I was grounded due to the medications I take. He proceeded to tell me of all the people he felt "inspired" to approach to tell them he would pray for them so their lives would be filled with joy. At a later time he told me that I just needed to quit my medications and get back to flying. It was at that time I politely told him to mind his own business.
Do not get me wrong. I have a great faith in God. I would not be alive today if I did not have God in my life. He gives me great courage. But I also believe that God had a hand in all things that are good. He has given man the knowledge to have the medications that can assist people with what ever it is they suffer from. Yes, people can be healed by faith. But sometimes we have to have faith in the fact that perhaps God led us to the doctor for the treatment that is needed.
I considered my nosey neighbor to judgmental and sanctimonious. I barely knew this man and he is trying to give me advise on my medical well being. This is just another way that people with depression are forced to hide their disease and feel even more isolated.
If you know someone who suffers from depression do not treat them with bias or ignorance. It due to discriminatory practices and attitudes that have put such a stigma on pilots who suffer from depression. Please, treat them as you would anyone else. They do not want your pity. They simply want to be able to go on with their lives and be the best productive members of society they can be. They want to provide for their families. They want to be noticed for the positive things they do in life. And pilots with depression simply want to be able to do what they love..... FLY
I remember the day I made the decision to go on medications. I knew that it could possibly ground me for life. I knew that I may never again sit at the controls of that jet I so much loved to fly. The thought of not being able to fly around the country at point mach something still breaks my heart. But I knew I needed get help. Tears flood from my eyes as I reminisce about the flying the I miss so much.
I started this posting with just a few short words on depression, but I have gone on with far more words than I had anticipated. Perhaps, I should break this down into a couple of postings. Thank you for reading the thoughts of a person who is missing the second love of his life. The first love you ask? Well, that is simple to answer. My wife.
Keep your eye on the sky!