Dear fellow aviators,
Sep 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). We have some interesting articles to share. This is a heavy topic but it should not be a taboo to talk about it. In fact, the more we improve our mental health literacy, the more normalised it becomes to have such conversations and the less stigma there will be surrounding the one suffering.
Do you think that asking someone about suicide encourages them to become suicidal? And suicide only affects those from certain social economic backgrounds? Or only those acting moody and sad are suicidal, that suicide is caused by depression, and that suicide is hereditary? In fact, these are all myths. You can read more about it here.
Experts say that for a person to contemplate suicide means they are in a situation of helplessness and despair. They want to get out of their situation but no longer know how to. Therefore, death seems like the only way out of their pain and suffering.
Another myth is that suicide is a rare occurrence and not a concern in Singapore. According to this recent article, the reported rate is rather alarming. Interestingly, of the 476 suicide deaths in 2022, 317 were men and the remaining 159 were women. SOS says, "Globally, male suicide deaths have consistently outnumbered female suicide deaths. Research has shown that there are several potential factors that can contribute to the higher rate, including societal expectations and mental health stigma".
In our context, pilots might tend to have issues accepting the reality that we cannot cope or have failed at something because of the common perception that pilots are high achievers and always in control. For some, the idea of losing face or simply someone knowing about it hits home hard. Issues and crises that affect pilots can be personal or work-related.
Just imagine how awful it feels when the inner demon of us takes over, as there is this negative recurring voice that is repeatedly casting self-doubt and self-criticism. Wouldn't it be nice if there was someone here to listen without any judgement and prejudice, someone who can journey alongside with you and direct you to professional help.
In our profession, there is a misconception that DMF for mental-related issues means the end of the flying career. In fact, CAMB has cleared pilots back to flying after successful treatment programmes. Studies also show that counselling and a strong support system play critical roles in the recovery process. Also, early detection is important thus encouraging a culture of seeking help and watching out for one another are fundamental in any organisation.
Then, what are the warning signs if you were looking out for one another or being self-aware? There are sites that provide some clues such as this and this. But we shouldn't be paranoid or overly reactive. It is always better to consult the medical health professionals or go for formal counselling. If you are unsure, have a look at our FINE checklist and get in touch with PAG to see how we can help.
PAG is always available and here to listen. You may reach out to us at 9-2255-724 (9-CALL-PAG) via phonecall or whatsapp text, or contact individual peer supporters via the ALPA-S app (click PAG->Contacts). And if you have a pilot-friend who might need help, please consider contacting us as well. All conversations are kept confidential.
Pilots Advisory Group (PAG)