Mental Health: a conversation among aviators
Welcome to our first monthly article on wellbeing and mental health.
We are Resilient Pilot and we’re delighted to work with AeroTime to start a conversation and invite reflection on these two important aspects of life. But first, a brief introduction.
In case you are not already familiar with us, Resilient Pilot is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation set up in May 2020 to support pilot and cabin crew communities across the world through the pandemic and beyond. The vast majority of what we offer is available for free but, where charges apply, we have done our best to facilitate funding options and/or discounts for our ‘Resilient Crew Room’ members to benefit from.
We have an international following of pilots and crew at all stages of their careers: many have been made redundant or furloughed due to the pandemic; others have recently graduated from training at a time when job opportunities are, at best, limited; some are considering a flying career; and others continue to fly, but have nonetheless felt the impact of the pandemic in ways such as erratic flying rosters, the threat of instability, and survivor’s guilt. No one in our industry has been untouched by the events of the past (almost) two years. ‘We are all in the same storm, but not the same boat,’ as the saying goes, and Resilient Pilot aims to help aviators ‘prepare for take-off’, whenever that might be and whatever that might require for each individual.
A message from the AeroTime CEO:
The importance of the work of Resilient Pilot cannot be underestimated and, on World Mental Health Day, I am delighted to welcome Karen and her team to be the latest monthly columnist on AeroTime. I’m looking forward to sharing their thoughts, work, advice and plans for the future with aviation professionals and enthusiasts around the world. As our industry continues to recover from the difficult, disruptive and destabilising days of the pandemic, looking after the wellbeing and mental health of our colleagues is more important than ever before. I hope that these columns will bring fresh thinking to our sector and provide advice and ideas for everyone to help look after themselves and one another. We will be introducing more monthly columnists in the weeks ahead so look out for our next announcements coming soon.
- Richard Stephenson
We hold wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. It is interwoven into our three pillars of keeping pilots and cabin crew ‘supported, current and connected’. Our mentors provide a safe space for members to explore any wellbeing challenges they are experiencing, while also focusing on how to maintain competency. While we align our practices to those advocated by our industry, being an independent organisation and not connected to an airline, regulator or training organisation (ATO) provides those coming to us for support with total anonymity, discretion and confidentiality.
Our goal is to help pilots and cabin crew maintain their wellbeing to sustain mental health and keep them fit to fly. But we recognise things can be tough and you might find yourself on a downward trajectory meaning that additional support beyond our offering is required. In such instances we have collaborative partners - whose ethe align with our own - that we can signpost our members to for peer support, counseling and mental health first aid.
To use an airline safety analogy, we believe in ‘putting our own mask on before helping others’ and we encourage our mentors to make their own wellbeing a priority. They attend group sessions to develop their mentoring skills and monitor their own wellbeing. They also have access to one-to-one support from a mental health professional.
Karen Bath, CEO Resilient Pilot & Liam Croucher MBACP, Resilient Pilot
By focusing on wellbeing alongside competencies, we hope to have a positive impact on mental health, something which has been - and remains - a sensitive topic. Stigma and fear surround mental health, particularly in aviation where pilots can be hesitant to disclose stress, anxiety, low mood and depression lest they lose their medical and are forced to stop flying.
As with overcoming any stigma, a good starting point is encouraging conversation to normalise discussions around mental health. Combined with regulator, airline and ATO buy-in to peer support networks, these initiatives aim to demystify the subject of mental health and empower pilots and cabin crew to reach out and seek assistance.
Annual awareness days such as Suicide Prevention Day and World Mental Health Day (WMHD) are designed to allow space to talk about these important issues - often considered taboo. The theme for this year’s WMHD - ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ - comes at a time when inequality and prejudice are being called out on an international level.
Resilient Pilot’s foundations model
Sadly, inequality and diversity are often linked. Prejudice can be a contributing factor to mental health issues for those in minority groups; years of micro and macroaggressions can have a profound effect on one’s identity and self-worth which can permeate every level of our existence, from personal relationships to career progression.
Providing mentoring/coaching, as Resilient Pilot does, to former, current and aspiring pilots and cabin crew across the globe means that we work with a diverse range of people. Sadly, it is unsurprising that issues of inequality arise demonstrating that we still have work to do in this area.
Diversity is something we want to celebrate and promote in aviation which is why it overarches everything we do at Resilient Pilot. We are proud of our diverse team of volunteers from across the globe, reflecting a mix of cultures and with varied operational background/current experience. And we embrace the experience and perspective each one of them brings. However, we recognise we are underrepresented in some respects and welcome applications from prospective volunteers to help us further diversify our offering.
As we hope we have demonstrated, we are passionate about wellbeing and mental health. We want to help normalise the conversation around them in aviation. We are, therefore, excited to bring you a monthly contribution on these important topics. You can expect informative articles on self-care, stress management, and how to support ourselves and others when times are tough.
But we’d like our ‘column’ here in AeroTime to be a conversation among aviators, so if there is a relevant topic you’d like us to cover, please let us know at [email protected]
Please visit our website resilientpilot.com to learn more and to join our Resilient Crew Room.
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