Depressed not dangerous

There has been widespread and scandalising headlines in the British (and no doubt worldwide) media this morning because the pilot of a German passenger plane crashed a plane. They have decided that because the pilot had “a long history of depression”, had recently split up from his partner and did not let the pilot back into the cockpit that he committed suicide and thus killed the other 149 people on the flight. They have come to this conclusion BEFORE the facts of the incident are released.

The headlines this morning imply, quite erroneously, that depressed people shouldn’t fly planes with or without passengers when suicide of pilots by crashing the plane is so low that I can’t find any statistics to say how many there have ever been. I have found out that 11% of homicides are committed by people with mental illness but this is not confined to depression. In 2011 – 2012 the homicide figure of is 550 so that means that 60 homicides in the UK were committed by people with mental health problems but that does not mean to say all those people who killed were suffering from a mental illness at the time (it may well have been in the past), there may well have been other factors to consider and it certainly does not mean that all those people had or had previously had depressive episodes.

In 2012 5,981 people took their own lives.

Does this not suggest that people with depression are far more likely to harm themselves than others? Would the headlines have been different if the pilot had a physical illness that meant he felt he couldn’t face a life of prolonged and not necessarily successful treatment? Would the headlines have then read “Cancer pilot tragically ended his life and 149 others.”

I have campaigned against stigma and discriminate for 40 years. I have had manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder) since I was 14 and I have never killed anybody or acted in a violent way towards them because of that. I have many self harm scars on my body and drank alcoholically for 18 years – my anger was directed inwards not outwards.

Dangerous no, depressed often.

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