Alaska Pilot Worried Mental Health Treatments Would Ruin Career

Alaska Pilot Worried Mental Health Treatments Would Ruin Career
Photo Credit: Nick Dean via Wikimedia Commons.

In a significant interview with The New York Times, Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson expressed concern that mental health treatments would disrupt his career.

Emerson claimed he was in a hallucinogenic state when attempting to turn off both the engines on a Horizon Air flight which lead to a diversion to Portland.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Alaska Airlines Pilot Was On Magic Mushrooms During the Incident…

Alaska Pilot Worried Mental Health Treatments Would Ruin Career
Photo Credit: Johnnyw3 via Wikimedia Commons.

The interview stated that he had consumed magic mushrooms two days earlier following the mourning of his best friend who had died.

“It was a loss that had plunged him into deep grief and triggered a search for help with what he realized were longstanding mental health issues”, the report said.

Emerson, the Alaska Airlines pilot, claims that the current system surrounding mental health with the Federal Aviation Administration causes pilots not to be as forthcoming when it comes to such diagnoses.

“A lot of us aren’t as forthcoming as we otherwise would be”.

It is understood that the FAA used to ground pilots who were dealing with depression, and would even go as far as suspending pilots if they were on standard anti-depressants. Such moves towards approving certain antidepressants were approved in 2010 for pilots with mild to moderate depression.

FAA Changing The Attitudes Towards Mental Health?

Alaska Pilot Worried Mental Health Treatments Would Ruin Career
Photo Credit: Pandaeast17 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the aftermath of this incident involving Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson, there has been a lot of focus towards pilots in the U.S who may be suffering from mental health problems.

Earlier this month, the FAA released video featuring their Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Susan Northup, who said the following in the video:

“We are doing everything we can to encourage open discussion of these issues and early intervention when necessary”.

“Most conditions, if treated, do not disqualify a pilot from flying. In fact, only about 0.1% of all medical certificate applicants who disclose mental health issues are final denied”.

“In numerous cases, we have tried to decrease the stigma in the aviation community. Just as society grapples with further reducing the stigma surrounding mental health through our educational and outreach efforts, we have attempted to dispel the myths.”

Around three days after that video was released, the FAA announced that it would appoint a rulemaking committee to examine pilot mental health, to prevent cases like Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson from not happening again.

So What Next?

Photo Credit: Nick Dean via Wikimedia Commons.

What remains clear is that despite the words from the Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Susan Northup, the stigma behind being a pilot with mental health is still strong and rife.

Moving forward, there will be much hope within the industry that the formation of this new committee by the FAA will be able to better push forward the support channels on offer to pilots, as well as the creation of new tools to prevent incidents such as Joseph Emerson’s experience onboard that Alaska Airlines flight.

But for now, all eyes will be on how this issue will be properly addressed, and whether a safer skies on the front of mental health can be further established and enhanced.

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 4 Min Read
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