Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pilots and depression revisited

In a previous post I brought up some questions about the FAA rules and pilot mental health. I personally feel that there is a lot of misinformation floating around about how nosy the FAA is about what type of counseling a person receives and what it is for and any retribution that might happen because of it. But right now I don't have the time to look further into it (I'm waiting for the opportunity to do it under the guise of a research paper and kill two birds with one stone actually...). My interest was more along the lines of getting short term counseling to help one deal with financial, parenting, or relationship stress and how even needing that can be perceived as a weakness making one unfit to fly not so much on full on diagnosed depression. It bothers me that ANY kind of counseling, by anyone, is perceived as a negative when in reality it could help one do ones job even better.

To that end, I came across a post in A's company forum that talked about pilots and depression and highlighted an Australian study regarding pilots who do fly while under care for depression. Here is the poster's summary of the study-

"Most air-safety authorities around the world ban pilots from flying while on antidepressant drugs citing safety reasons. Now the results of an Australian study suggests that taking the drugs does not increase the risk of accidents, while banning them could increase risks by encouraging depressed pilots not to seek treatment.

A team led by aviation medicine specialist James Ross, who ran the study while a consultant at Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), scrutinised Australian pilot safety records spanning from 1993 to 2004.

Unlike most air safety authorities around the world, CASA allows Australian pilots to fly while on antidepressant drugs, under tightly controlled conditions.

For example, the pilot must have taken the drugs for at least a month before flying. This is to ensure that he or she is not suffering side-effects such as fatigue or nausea that could affect performance. Depressed pilots are also not allowed to fly if they have suicidal tendencies, pathological anger, or abnormal sleep patterns associated with the disorder.

General ban
Over the 12-year study period, 481 pilots who were prescribed antidepressants had 11 accidents due to pilot error and 22 near misses. The researchers say this was not significantly different to the five accidents and 26 near misses of the similar number of pilots who did not take antidepressants, but who were matched by age, sex, and flying experience.

The results will be presented by team member Kathy Griffiths of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra today at the World Psychiatric Association annual congress in Melbourne, Australia.

Most aviation safety authorities, including the US Federal Aviation Authority, and the European Joint Aviation Authority, ban pilots from flying while on antidepressants because of concerns about the effect of treatment and the underlying depression on a pilot's performance.

That might not be wise, says Ross. He points out that the Australian study suggests that using antidepressants in a carefully managed, structured environment is safe, and that rules or regulations that encourage pilots not to seek treatment, or not to declare it, could backfire.

"Antidepressants can be prescribed for years, so that means you are asking people to give up their livelihoods, or leave their depression untreated," notes Griffiths.

Reluctant reporting
The Australian study also found that only 1% of pilots admitted to taking antidepressants, compared to 4.5% of Australians in the general population.

That suggests that even under the Australian rules, which allow pilots on antidepressants to continue flying, the increased scrutiny by CASA could encourage pilots to avoid seeking medical help or to keep it secret when they do.

US pilots taking medication for psychological conditions such as depression who were involved in fatal accidents had also rarely reported either the medication or their underlying condition to the FAA, according to two recent studies (see Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, vol 77, p 1171, and vol 78, p 1055, for the most recent).

"Many aviation doctors have maintained that the side effects of antidepressants present far less risk to aviation safety than the problem of untreated or undeclared depression. It's encouraging to see that the Australian evidence supports this," says David Powell of the Occupational and Aviation Medicine Unit at Otago University in Wellington, New Zealand.

"Depression is common and treatable, so surely the best way to manage it in aviation is to bring it out of hiding," he says."

A comment made by the poster that reflects what I was thinking as well when I made the first posts- "I guess we would rather have depressed pilots flying, who don't want to report it, than pilots who are being treated and fully able to fly competently while on medication."

A later poster commented that pilots hiding depression do self medicate- with alcohol.

Sadly, the poster of the study did not give any citations for the study so I can't give any info about where to find this study or where/when it was published. Requests for that information further into the post did not receive a response. I feel kind of dirty posting what is said to be research without a citation, must the the honest student in me, but I felt the information was important.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Numerically speaking

Signs I know I live in the hood:
1. My complex is surrounded by cyclone fence topped by razor wire.
2. There are 3 laundromats on a 1 mile stretch of street
3. I saw someone having a yard sale in the parking lot of the local corner store.
4. Several gas stations are cash only.
5. The local church van lives in a locked fence cage.

Weird things I've seen on the road in the past two weeks:
1. Dead construction worker (was hit by a car, hadn't been fully covered over by the police at the scene).
2. A guy wearing only a headband and thong riding his bike down a main thoroughfare (not pretty!)
3. A space capsule on the back of a semi heading west down the highway (headed for Houston or Huntsville we guessed).

Number of trips back to Jacksonville we've made in the 2.5 weeks since we've moved- 2. Actually A has made 3.

Amount spent on textbooks for 3 of my 5 classes- $570.45. One class has no required text, one has yet to announce.

Number of fans constantly running in our house- 3. In addition to the air-conditioner.

Number of hours I have spent apart from A since Aug 1- 35. Out of a possible 432.

Number of times I have cursed at FSU- countless.

Largest conundrum faced- Parking is available on campus by permit only. One must have a student ID to get a permit. The ID office is located on campus. Where does one park on campus to get said ID in order to get the permit required for on campus parking?

Number of students who will descend on campus like a swarm of locusts this week- Approximately 30,000. For a total student population of 40,000.

Days until I pick up Kidzilla from the airport after 8 weeks away- <1

Days until school starts- 5

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Turning the tables

Back in January 2006 we moved from California to Florida for A to do his flight training. Essentially I left everything and everyone I knew to move across the country to support him. To me it was a big adventure and a chance to start our lives fresh.

It was only about 2 years later that he revealed to me the huge pressure he felt to make it through training. We had moved everything specifically for him to follow his dream and if he screwed up and failed out of training he would feel like a massive failure. Even though it never occurred to me that he might not succeed (probably my blind faith was a good thing while going through training) and I never once put any pressure on him or guilted him about making us move (well, he'd probably beg to differ, but I don't remember doing it) he still felt an enormous amount of pressure.

Now the tables are turned and our family has moved so I can follow though on my goals. And even though A hasn't said one thing to me about it, I feel an enormous pressure not to f*%k this up. We moved here because of me, solely me, and if I decide I made a mistake in following this career path, I will have uprooted everyone for nothing.

I'm working on letting go and trying to release the pressure to succeed. I think (hope!) that once I actually get going in school it will all fall away. But so far, in the back of my mind, that little bit of anxiety still lingers.


My ex husband got married yesterday. I found out through whispers about two months ago and it was confirmed by my parents who were invited. And attended, as far as I know. I think I would be more weirded out by their attendance if I lived closer to the whole affair.

I am happy for my ex. I hope he will be happy as well. And I feel confident in saying that the new wife is probably a better fit for him that I ever was. I've been remarried for 2.5 years already, obviously I've let go and moved on.

The part that rubs me is that he didn't even bother to tell me. As if my parents AND/OR our child wouldn't mention at some point that they had been to the wedding. Or maybe he just expected them to break the news to me. I found out shortly before he came to pick up Kidzilla for the summer. At our breakfast pow-wow I expressly asked him if anything interesting was going on during the summer, any big plans or special events, as an opening for him to announce his plans. Nope, he said, no big plans.

I wonder why he chose not to mention the upcoming event. I guess this is my way of making it clear that I know.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thought you had bad moving juju?

Moving was a mess. Everything that could go wrong did. We got locked out, had to have the lock drilled out and then search out a replacement for the now discontinued lock and install it. We had to hook up the auto trailer and get the car on it during a rainstorm. The U Haul we were scheduled to return the equipment to was too full and sent us to another one which closed 2 minutes before we got there. They refused to take off the trailer so we could unload the truck until convinced it was in their best interest via screaming hissy fit on my part. The apartment wasn't fully prepped and had several safety issues. To their credit, university housing had every issue fixed within 24 hours. We even got a new stove out of the deal. Now we just have to figure out why the gas wasn't turned on with the rest of the utilities. We ended up unloading half the truck between 10pm and 1am (at least it was cool weather and the neighbors couldn't see exactly how much stuff we really brought) and half from 7 am to 9 am the next morning. We are so hiring movers when its time to leave here.

We now have most of the unpacking done. The cable/internet is hooked up and we got a sweet little free bonus. The a/c is cranked and makes my desk the coolest spot in the house. A and I have calmed down the nonstop bickering. And we visited Club Publix.

We heard from the housing office that the local Publix (grocery store) was written up in Playboy as the best place to meet others (presumably of the opposite sex). It is not uncommon to see overdressed young coeds there shopping for dates along with groceries. I can't wait for school to start to see this spectacle.

It's always something I guess.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On the road again

It's moving day. The truck is 98.9% packed up. We got news on Thursday that they were able to unfurnish our apartment so we get to bring our own furniture. I'm praying that the office worker I spoke with got it right because I will be LIVID if we get there and there is already furniture. What are we supposed to do with our then? But fingers are crossed. We'll be taking off in the 17 foot truck with the car on a trailer behind it. Thankfully A will be driving. An acquaintance called him "a model of moving efficiency" the other day and he hasn't let me forget it.

A few days without Internet coming up but I'll be back to reading and posting soon.