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Support For Pilots With Mental Health Problems More Helpful In Reducing Suicide Risks Than Two In Cockpit Requirement: Experts

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To decrease suicide risks, experts said more support for pilots with mental health conditions should be employed, rather than necessitating the presence of two pilots in the cockpit during flights.

Authorities from the European aviation safety group required two people to be present in the cockpit at all times to halt the risk of pilot suicide. The mandate came after Germanwings A320 crashed in a French mountainside on Mar. 24, 2015, due to the possible deliberate action of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. The fatal crash killed 150 people onboard.

Later, investigations revealed that Lubitz underwent depression, researched suicide methods and did not revealed his condition to his employer.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, experts at an aviation safety meeting said that requiring two persons to stay in the cockpit at all times will not automatically help and the mandate had been announced too quickly, without looking at possible further trainings for cabin staff.

Robert Bor, a consultant psychologist at the Royal Free Hospital said that in past events of crashes, which cause was thought to be pilot suicide, the second person was not always able to take charge of the controls from his/ her colleague.

Philip Baum, managing director at security training company Green Light Ltd said that the move signifies a severe lack of judgement from an industry that is expected to come up with advanced strategies based on common sense.

In July 2015, a European task force suggested other interventions to prevent suicide crashes. Among the recommendations made were to enhance psychological assessment for new pilots, involving a databank that contains detailed information about checkups, and better support networks.

Bor also said that mental health problems should be associated with less stigma and the industry should be more open about the topic and promote a culture of acceptance during problem reporting. Aside from mental health illnesses, other psychological problems such as anxiety, relationship, sleep and financial burdens must not be looked in a shameful light.

"Pilots are not naive to their own mental stresses," said Bor. "They need to be part of the effort to make the skies safer."

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