The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

New FAA policy on depression in pilots an advance for mental health

Plane landing against the Manhattan skyline
Image by John Wardell (Netinho) via Flickr

I am frequently amazed by the ignorance of our media and wonder if this is simply a reflection of the rest of the population or if they must act ignorant to be able to ask the stupid questions they must ask.

While at work last week, when this article was breaking, the news media called our unit numerous times.  Each time they were referred to the media contact for our hospital; each time, they called back trying again to talk to a psychiatrist or a nurse.  It was really annoying and took staff away from the job of taking care of patients.

That said, I am still amazed that this is even an issue.  Antidepressants have been around for many, many years.  There are second and third generation antidepressants today.  Being depressed is an illness that a person has little to no control over, much like getting the flu or having a chronic medical condition.  But when you get into the discussion of whether or not to allow pilots (who are driving huge metal tubes at enormous speeds) to fly while taking this type of medication, I am perplexed.  Is is just the antidepressant or can pilots not fly while taking other medications like, say, Metformin or HCTZ?

I for one would really be worried about an untreated depressed pilot if I was in the plane.  Research has shown that such people will seek relief in other ways–alcohol, drugs, etc.  I would rather know that the pilot is being treated and under the care of a physician.  Besides, depressed people frequently have suicidal thoughts and piloting an airplane is not where they need to be when that happens.

Won’t you read the article below and let me know what your thoughts are?


In an effort to improve safety, The Federal Aviation Administration is lifting its ban on pilots flying while on antidepressants.

Two years of medical research found that not everyone experiences negative effects from the newer antidepressants and in those that due, the negative effects fade over time.

Based on research into the frequency of depression in the general population, the FAA assumes that as many as 10% of pilots may experience some type of depressive symptoms.

Among the reasons the FAA is lifting the ban is that pilots have been concealing their use of antidepressants.

Under the new policy:

  • Pilots who take one of four antidepressants – Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro – or their generic equivalents will be allowed to fly if they have been successfully treated by those medications for a year without side effects that could pose a safety hazard in the cockpit.
  • The FAA will not take civil enforcement action against pilots who, within six months, disclose their diagnoses of depression and treatment.
  • Psychiatrists and Aviation Medical Examiners who have specialized training under the Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) program will help the FAA evaluate and monitor pilots under this new policy..

The Army, the Civil Aviation Authority of Australia and Transport Canada already allow some pilots to fly who are using antidepressants.

We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression. Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties.

– Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt.

More info:
From the FAA:
Questions and Answers: FAA Policy on Antidepressants
FAA Proposes New Policy on Antidepressants for Pilots
April 2, 2010
From the Associated Press:
Ban lifted: Pilots can take antidepressants on job
Apr 2, 201,0 By LAURIE KELLMAN.
FAA: Pilots allowed to take antidepressants on job
Apr 2, 2010, By LAURIE KELLMAN.

Here’s the link to the original article

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April 8, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] rest is here: New FAA policy on depression in pilots an advance for mental … By admin | category: depression treatment, treatment | tags: adult, are-chlamydia, […]

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