Are Mental Health issues in ATC being ignored?

sk2286

Active Member
Messages
43
Yes. Mental health issues are being ignored. In many industries; but first responders/ATC especially due to the unique schedules and demands of the job. I get that the union is trying to be “supportive” and whatever, and I don’t have the answers as to what more they can do, but it’s gotta be more than lighting a candle on Facebook and saying the right words. Do something. Anything. They did negotiate an MOU with the agency for SSRI usage, but anecdotally any attempt to use this MOU is met with discouragement and dismissal of the issue. I don’t blame anyone for jumping ship from the Titanic that is the FAA. So, thoughts and prayers y’all.
 
Messages
4
But where is the line drawn? Depression is okay, but what about bipolar? Multiple personality disorder? Schizophrenia? What exactly does the MMPI test for? Also... Say you receive treatment whether therapy or medication what is the downtime? A week? A month? Until you can demonstrate stability? Who determines what is stability? I'm sure much of this has already been researched and tested but I'm not familiar with it... Maybe others here are?


Instead of focusing on where to draw the line, what if we focused on where to start. The undertaking of this will be a mountain, no doubt.

People with these "issues" are not lining up to leave their jobs for the sake of NAS safety. People do not wake up depressed one day. The slow onset of depression leads to them thinking they are fine to control, and continue; much the same as the boiling frog theory. Next thing you know, there's a jet in a nose-dive outside of Houston...or a 777 lost in the Indian Ocean...(but that last one doesn't matter because it wasn't in the U.S.)

I like your idea about teaming up with the other aviation unions, finding minimal agreed upon common ground and working from there. Pilots do not want to be controlled by untreated controllers, and I certainly don't want to be strapped in a jet with an untreated depressed pilot behind a double locked door. (I make it seem like this is an epidemic).

Maybe they open the door to those with diagnosed depression. Study that, figure out that undertaking and in 3-5 years expand on the other mental health issues you have listed above (but those are admittedly difficult to work around). As for those listed, depression is far more prevalent across all demographics, 10x more so than schizo, bi-polar, etc. It's also the leading cause to suicide.

Do I think any and everyone should be able to fly 400 people across the pond, hell no; but that's where we work on drawing the line.

Getting back to the OP: the shift work, shitty quality of life, sometimes toxic work environments, no leave available, etc. Those are facility by facility issues that can be worked out. Causal factors? Absolutely. I don't think shoving pills down, or buying everyone a puppy is always the answer. But allowing avenues for treatment is certainly a starting point. Depression is treatable, and it's temporary (99% of the time). In the small cases where it is not, maybe that's where a new career or desk jockey position within the agency is in line. There needs to be an end goal of allowing controllers to get help, and return to work in a reasonable time. Sad to say, but depression is becoming a societal norm.

Things to think about:
Are you willing to take a 20% pay cut because you are only working 32 hours now?

Are you willing to subject yourself to bi annual mental health examinations, which will wildly vary by service area, district etc?

Are you willing to have a co worker mention you seem a little off or are having problems at home and lose your medical for 3 months pending therapy?

Are you willing to work even shorter staffed because it will be that much more difficult to hire and retain employees with rigid mental health screenings?

Be careful what you wish for. NATCA has to pick their battles and this one fill be a very difficult uphill battle with some possible heavy downsides.

Fun (little known) fact: Many employers will consider 32 hours full time with benny's.

Are you willing to have a co-worker have a major operational error, or worse, kill themselves? leaving you...guess what....short staffed.


Difficult to hire? Do you realize the percentage of todays youth who are on meds, and have depression? It's staggering. We already have the pre-employment mental health screens. This is about people within the system, developing symptoms (due to the nature of the work), and letting them get the proper help/treatment. If anything, this will lead to better recruitment in the future.
 
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PushingTin

Guest
I don't have the answers and I don't think its the unions "fault" that many controllers are suffering so badly w mental health that they're killing themselves. I do think that the issue should not be avoided, just because its an uncomfortable truth. That would be the worst thing. This is happening within our career field too often IMO. Obviously it affects every part of society, but some of the severe medical restrictions on controllers I think are force multipliers to make it worse. Combined w what Josephml21 rightly says... if you are unhappy, unable to change your situation (NCEPT shit show etc.), this career field makes it less likely someone will just up and resign without many other good options. Especially if you are supporting a family. That is irrational in the big picture of life, but we are talking about people who through whatever circumstances have arrived at a place of temporary insanity.

Even how the fatigue (Leave for Special Circumstances) is handled, just saying you are FATIGUED (working batshit crazy schedules full of double quick turns etc.) is almost treated like you are commiting a federal offense and scamming the agency. And they're the ones who initiated the fatigue "sleeping controllers on the mid" witchhunt 8 years ago or so. So if being fatigued gets you veiled threats of medical certificate blackmail, god help anyone suffering from much worse in their life.
 

HighFrequency

Active Member
Messages
91
Controllers are in large an interesting group. There are a ton of statistical anomalies in the group due to personality types.....

For example, there are around 327million people in the US right? In the US, active Base jumpers (Flinging oneself off of a cliff or the likes with a parachute) generally number sub 2,000 participants total, or at least that’s my best estimate, and is probably a bit high....

So that’s like 1/164k people in the general population, discounting age and race, etcetera.....

However, I knew 3 other controllers who BASE jumped while I was active BASE jumping. Oh, and I met a NAV canada controller while BASE jumping at an event, and had mutual friends of a French controller who jumped....

what are the odds.....

So weird. I've worked side by side with 3 rated skydivers (like multiple hundreds to near-thousand jumps), and a retired OG BASE jumper. That's not even including myself, and these are all just in ATC.

Outside of this field, I've literally never even met another fun jumper outside of a dropzone. I think there's a certain overlap in mental wiring that draws people to this career and to these passions. Your average person probably thinks of it as some adrenaline junkie type stuff too, but at least in my experience there's a lot more introspection to it.

I still have trouble explaining that I skydive to relax, not for a rush, but controllers are oddly easier to convince. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought there was some sort of correlation.
 

bdenny20

Member
Messages
33
Your average person probably thinks of it as some adrenaline junkie type stuff too, but at least in my experience there's a lot more introspection to it.

Hi there. I'm only just going to the academy, but hopefully I'll be joining you soon. I have just under a thousand jumps, I'm considering taking a TI course if I end up somewhere with a nice DZ. I also don't do it for the 'rush,' I just like aviation. I'm a jumper, pilot and A&P mechanic. Maybe some of your co-workers are like me and just like being around the industry.
 

GMX

Trusted Contributor
Messages
249
I'd love to skydive it would be so fun and the thought of hurtling to the ground doesn't scare me at all. I'll never do it though because I'm too afraid about the chute not working.
 

bdenny20

Member
Messages
33
I'd love to skydive it would be so fun and the thought of hurtling to the ground doesn't scare me at all. I'll never do it though because I'm too afraid about the chute not working.

Luckily...ya have a backup onboard for plan B.
 
Messages
3
Reviving the thread for advice. Anyone who has been medically retired for depression or medically retired in general, PM me.
I’m going to be disqualified because I dont pass their rule-outs for SSRI’s. Frustrated with the FAA in general, I dont even want to take a staff job anymore. I’ll go do something else.
 

CF

Assistant to the Regional Moderator
I ♥ pointSixtyFive
Messages
2,552
Reviving the thread for advice. Anyone who has been medically retired for depression or medically retired in general, PM me.
I’m going to be disqualified because I dont pass their rule-outs for SSRI’s. Frustrated with the FAA in general, I dont even want to take a staff job anymore. I’ll go do something else.
I’d make a new thread. The person who started this one was generally an unserious poster so people may not click it if they see it and this thread doesn’t bump to the home page so others will probably miss your post.

threads made in the scratch pad section of the website don’t bump so id probably make it in the general FAA section.
 

Super Salt

🍻🍻🍻
Staff member
I ♥ pointSixtyFive
Messages
872
I’d make a new thread. The person who started this one was generally an unserious poster so people may not click it if they see it and this thread doesn’t bump to the home page so others will probably miss your post.

threads made in the scratch pad section of the website don’t bump so id probably make it in the general FAA section.
Do not speak ill of the dead.
 
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