Parenting the Depressed

They are the other victims;  the parents of Andreas Lubitz, the 27 year old Germanwings co-pilot who flew a plane into the French Alps, taking 149 lives with his own.crash site

As the investigation evolves, it shows depression and anxiety, multiple suicide attempts, almost 18 months of psychoanalysis that interrupted pilot training in his early twenties.

How much did his parents know ? Was he able to hide it from friends and family in the pursuit of an aviation career ?

What did his girlfriend understand when he said ” One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it”?

Could there have been an intervention ? What was the responsibility of the physician who prescribed psychiatric meds ? Were HIPAA laws in play, the guarantee of confidentiality ?

Lufthansa requires annual physical exams for their pilots, but once they pass the rigorous training sequence, there is no attention to their mental health.

There is no screening for a professional who holds so many lives thousands of feet above safe ground ?

As a member of a family with a long history of depressive illness, incidents like this stir me to my very core. I hid my depression from my family. Only my husband knew how difficult the 20’s were for me.

My parents hid their issues from health care providers. They refused treatment until they no longer could. So did their immigrant parents, it was not up for discussion.

Our young adult children struggled in silence; not wanting to burden us.

It is a painful, vicious cycle.

When and how do you step in as a parent ? When do you let go and trust that they will work it out for themselves ?

I had hoped that by this age, I’d have the answers. All I have are the questions.

A whole lot of questions.

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17 Responses to Parenting the Depressed

  1. emovoid says:

    Great post. While I can’t condone what Lubitz did, I also can’t condone some of the social media commentators like Piers Morgan, who said: “Mad, bad, sad, whatever. I have no sympathy for this #GermanWingsCrash co-pilot, but deepest sympathy for the 149 people he murdered.”

    Firstly, someone has to be in a truly excruciating frame of mind to commit suicide, and it should be possible for adults to empathise with that without excusing his actions. More importantly, how do these kinds of comments help? Lubitz is not alive to hear the moral condemnation, nor will it change what has happened. All vilifying the co-pilot will do is cause more pain to innocent people like Lubitz’s parents, who are no doubt already consumed with guilt and pain and struggling to reconcile his actions with their memories of their loved one.

    I’ve also written a blog post on the Germanwings crash; please check it out if you get the chance.

    http://www.emovoid.com/germanwings-people-are-literally-dying-of-humiliation-over-mental-illness/

    • A very accurate post, thanks for the link and for your thoughtful comment, Emovoid. It will take a village. Van

    • Phyllis says:

      You’ve made some extremely valid points – thanks for sharing. In tragic situations, we always struggle to make sense of ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. I suppose that’s a part of why some are quick to judgement, to find a solution for a problem without one.

      • emovoid says:

        You’re right, we’ll never make sense of it. I think it makes people feel better to vilify Lubitz as a madman, because it’s a simple explanation that makes them feel safe. If madness is the reason, there is potentially a solution; exclude people with depression from flying planes. There are all kinds of practical reasons why this would be unworkable, but the idea of “doing something” makes people feel safer, even if the “solution” wouldn’t actually make them any safer. I think this instinct is what drives of the most ludicrous commentary, like the Daily Mail’s headline, “Suicide pilot had a long history of depression: Why on earth was he allowed to fly?”

        The truth is that ordinary people do very occasionally commit inconceivable acts for reasons that don’t make any sense to the rest of us. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to prevent the tragic events that result. In this day and age, I think people find it very difficult to accept any kind of safety risk, however miniscule. We will never succeed in eliminating all risk in life, however much we compromise our civil liberties in an attempt to do so.

      • Wise words. Thanks for your insight. Van

  2. Really good questions. Thank you for asking them Van. ❤
    Diana xo

  3. LaVagabonde says:

    I’ve struggled with debilitating depression since I was a teenager, so I usually can feel empathy when I hear of a suicide. I don’t feel bad for this ahole at all. But I feel for his parents. The guilt and shame they will have to live with. I hope this won’t stigmatize people with depression. There are many seriously depressed people, but very few are so selfish as to take others with them when they decide to end it all. This guy was probably a narcissist on top of being depressed. The drugs he was taking may have played a role as well. Suicidal and aggressive behavior are known side effects of SSRIs.

    • The drugs. Still not sure why they are so quick to prescribe. Most folks I know had side effects that were worse than the original condition. It’s an Rx crap shoot, with so many tragic stories. Thanks for sharing, Julie. Van

  4. The parents of the co-pilot have been on my mind endlessly. Imagine the horrific transition they had to undergo from just plain old grieving parents who lost a son in a plane crash to the realization that he had caused it. I’ve wondered whether a part of them suspected as much when they heard the news. It’s just a dreadful story on so many levels, but I think it’s important to note that most people suffering from depression would never dream of doing something like this young pilot did. I hate to imagine that such aberrant behavior might have been predicted by those closest to him – the mind reels.

    • I’ve been so sensitive to this, especially since Columbine, my kids were in high school at the time. Those 2 shooters were from respected, affluent families. Psychosis knows no socio-economic barrier. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Barbara. ☺ Van

  5. It takes a village to parent these children, but the stigma pushes them back. So so sad & so hard to find an honest to goodness solution. There is sadness all the way around. The survivors are changed for ever. Very thought provoking post.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. Every time one of these tragedies occur (and there are way too many of them), I think of how it must affect the perpetrator’s family. It’s a very complex problem. Van

      • It is a very very complex problem. Everyone suffers. Even the ones just superficially looking in. They start to look around at their love ones hoping they are not missing anything.

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