Germanwings’ tragedy: People with depression are not dangerous!
Brussels, 14 March 2016 – Following a recent report from the BEA (France’s air accident investigation agency) on last year’s Germanwings crash, French investigators are now recommending tougher medical checks for pilots after uncovering fresh evidence of unreported concerns over the mental state of the German pilot who crashed his jet into the Alps last year, killing all 150 people on board. Last year’s Germanwings tragedy has once more raised the question of how people with mental health problems are being treated in the media.
As MHE Director Maria Nyman recalled in an article published last year “People are just using the word depression as if depression itself makes you do this kind of thing”. We do not want people suffering from depression to become even more stigmatised because of articles depicting people with depression as a danger to others. Millions of people across Europe are suffering from depression, and the media must be careful when referring to it as the words they use may impact indirectly on the lives of many who already suffer due to stigma and discrimination.
Whilst French investigators are currently calling for ways to lift medical confidentiality when pilots show psychological problems, we would like to encourage European journalists to use caution when covering mental health issues and avoid sensationalizing it. Yes, Andreas Lubitz suffered from depression, but his acts cannot be explained by depression alone : let’s not jump to conclusion which could potentially reverse years of effort to improve public understanding of mental health problems!
While MHE hopes that current investigations and discussions will help the families of the victims, and while we understand that public authorities need to discuss current legislation with regards to medical confidentiality and high-risks professions, we would like to call on the media to cover depression and other mental health problems responsibly.
People with depression are not dangerous, and it is a journalistic duty to be clear and well-informed about this fact. Responsible journalism can help to dispel this outdated and offensive stereotype