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Germanwings Flight 9525 shows the limits of predicting human violence

April 8, 2015

About the Author

photo of Michael Craig Miller, MD

Michael Craig Miller, MD, Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing

Michael Craig Miller, M.D., was Editor in Chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter from August 2000 to March 2012. Published monthly, the Harvard Mental Health Letter was read widely by professionals and non-professionals alike. Dr. … See Full Bio
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April 19, 2015

From the news reports it did seem that they knew he was a risk but didn’t take it seriously. Starting from the time he was in pilot training and had to leave due to depression, then he was on medication for depression and regularly seeing a dr for it who deemed him not well to pilot a plane. Perhaps since his condition was known before he was even hired, they should have required him to see a company appointed dr who could report back if they felt he needed to stop flying.

faizan alam
April 11, 2015

Very nice article thanks for sharing this. how can i follow u?

Faewyn Goyen
April 10, 2015

If you look at the pilots photo his madness is VERY clear for all to see if they actually bother to really look. An aware dog train to sit at the foot of emotionally disturbed persons would have easily and cost effectively identified the pilot as not being in a fit state to fly. Cheaper that drug and alcohol testing as well.

April 10, 2015

My heart goes out to the relatives of the loved ones lost in this Germanwings airline murder-suicide disaster. Maybe a future solution to this kind of unprecedented event is to have periodic mental health screenings of all airline pilots in place. In addition, people should endeavor to talk more to one another and kind of be our “brothers keepers”, which is hard in our fast paced modern day living but could go a long way in airing and possibly terminating dangerous thought processes in people. Spouses and partners help each other (sometimes) in this regard. But if one is alone or lonely, single, unmarried, or introverted or a recluse those thoughts may go on unchecked leading to devastating consequences like thoughts telling one to kill oneself along with over a hundred more innocent human beings. I commiserate with the relatives of the victims. Very sad indeed.

April 9, 2015

Concerns about the paradoxical effects of psychotropics need to be discussed with patients and in public education . Symptoms such as lack of sleep,hypomanic behavior and increasing hopelessness are not uncommon on antidepressants and antipsychotics.Special vigilance is required when the patient works in a position of trust with public, eg carrying guns, driving transport .

William.R.Corcoran, PhD, PE
April 9, 2015

It is too early to be definite about fitness for duty and trustworthiness.

There are many tools that could help.

These include:
one-to-one psychological screening
psychological screening by test
mandatory reporting by healthcare providers
continuous behavior observation programs
computer analysis of social media participation
personal pre-trip interviews

April 9, 2015

I’ll never understand how anybody can take lifes of innocent people, but our leaders do it everyday. I can only think this person felt hopeless and in soom way felt violated. I’ve always said you can screw with most of the people most of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. So if someones lost trust, where will the signal come from?
I would like to express my sorrow to the families and friends of those that lost on that horrible day!

Venkat Warren
April 9, 2015

Great article BUT the German Airline officials missed or ignored ( worse!) many cues from this young immature very depressed pilot. The Airline has a moral and social obligation to protect the passengers at all times . After all, the public gets on a plane assuming that that are safe from deliberate acts of violence however unpredictable the acts may be. Knowingly ignoring the desperate pleas of a pilot for help and allowing to fly their plane to harms way is unconscionable . Venkat Warren.

Faewyn Goyen
April 10, 2015

You are spot on in your assessment. What has become really wrong with today’s world is that people and organisations at all levels are ignoring their individual and collective duty of care to each other and indeed everything on this planet. Thank you for your perspective.

Mike From Florida
April 9, 2015

Maybe the United States should start offering free mental health care for people who are feeling suicidal or homicidal. Sure it would be expensive, but I feel like it would be well worth it. Instead of passing out food stamps to everyone with a cell phone and a bad employment history maybe we could devote some of those funds to helping people who actually want to get help.

Ly Tran
April 9, 2015

I highly agree with you.

April 9, 2015

Thanks for your information its helpful

April 9, 2015

He had the sick leave note, but he tore it up and went to pilot despite it. He made a choice.

April 8, 2015

This is one of the best blog.I had read your post lot of information in it

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