Pilot Andreas Lubitz might have suffered from depression, but that doesn’t explain what he did. We are at risk of further demonising those with mental health problems
News of the Germanwings crash which left 150 dead has, inevitably, led to questions about what went wrong. In the absence of any technical fault, attention has shifted to Andreas Lubitz, the pilot who appears to have deliberately caused the crash. Reports are now suggesting that Lubitz had a history of depression. Predictably, this has resulted in a barrage of stigmatising, fear-mongering media reports, both in the UK and internationally.
Depression is among the most common of mental illnesses, and is experienced by around 20% of adults. Characterised by feelings of guilt, hopelessness and reduced interest in pleasurable activities, it can affect anyone, from manual workers to heads of FTSE companies. Indeed, many successful people have experienced depression – among them Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Henri Matisse – and there is virtually no evidence to suggest that the depressed pose a danger to others as a result of their illness. This is true of the full range of mental health problems: the scientific literature is clear that people with schizophrenia, long demonised and reviled by the press, are far more likely to be harmed by others or themselves than to enact violence.