Pilots must complete many years of intensive training, be able to learn a plethora of technical knowledge, and keep hundreds of people safe almost every day. Many of us don’t think about the last part of that sentence all that much as we walk onto a plane. Most of us are too concerned with our vacation or business plans, making sure we have everything we need, and hoping we don’t have to sit next to a stranger who falls asleep on our shoulder or a crying child. We don’t really think about the men and women who are flying us to our destination. Some pilots can become overwhelmed by the responsibility they feel for our lives, they are in fact flying a large metal plane weighing thousands of pounds at an altitude of around 35,000 feet above sea level or more, filled with hundreds of people. This knowledge alone can be a lot for anyone person to handle but then you add in the fact that they’ve been flying all over the country/world for the last few days with little to no time to sleep. In recent years this has been looked into and pilots are fighting for more reasonable work schedules. Since pilots are traveling, they are mostly staying in hotels, in different places without their support group. Their friends and family are at home and they may be in a city where they don’t know the language.
Pilots, Addiction & EAP’s
There are a lot of pilots who enjoy the lifestyle, responsibility, and can manage the hours. However, there are some that find all these things to be difficult. They can develop crippling anxiety and/or depression and as a way to escape those feelings they may start to self-medicate with substances. Some are just trying to stay awake and coffee isn’t working anymore. Many of the qualities we look for in leaders are similar personality traits we find in those with addiction. To learn more about the similarities read our blog post “High-stress Jobs & Addiction.” Pilots who start to abuse substances may not want to admit it to others in fear of losing their jobs and this was the case prior to 1974, and the establishment of the Air Line Pilot Association (ALPA) creation of their Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) treatment program. Since then it has become more and more regular for pilots to ask their Employee Association Program (EAP) counselors for help finding treatment and also more regular for family members and coworkers to let the EAPs know about someone they are concerned about. The EAPs allow them to keep their job while they get help for any number of problems including mental health and addiction treatment. To learn more about EAPs read our blog “How To Use Employee Assistance Programs”
Studies have been performed on pilots to see how they compare to the general public in relations to substance abuse and they found that the same drugs were being abused with the same effects and in the same amount. Which means that the most abused substances amongst pilots are alcohol and marijuana. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that out of almost 1,850 anonymously reporting airline pilots on their mental health, 12.6% of them met the depression threshold, while a further 4.1% reported having suicidal thoughts. Looking at the general United States population, depression is one of the leading causes of disability and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 6.7% of the adult population will be affected by clinical depression. If you are a pilot who is looking for more information about treatment or know that you need to get started right away call us today at 1-888-986-7848, or contact us here.