I have to admit that I am irritated, not only irritated, but also deeply saddened and concerned by ridiculous conclusions that the media, namely The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Star and others, have come to regarding the German Co-piolot Andreas Lubitz simply because he has a history of depression.
You see I have a history of depression, I am currently taking medication for depression, I am currently on a maintainance dose, maybe in the warped view of the editors who allowed the publication of such stupid articles that makes me safe! The problem is that we have no way of knowing why Lubitz did what he did, and we may never know, but to leap to the conclusion that depression unhinged him enough to take 150 people with him is entirely unreasonable, not only that it raises questions of the safety and stability of anyone with a mental illness. No matter, that is not what is important to the editors of these so called newspapers who went ahead and published their stories with banner headlines, after all they need to sell copies, and people love a villan and a bad news story!
In response the mental health charity Mind produced a statement:
Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.
Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.
They sensibly called for rationality and calm and and a more considered approach, for these Newspapers were in effect asking why somebody with a history of depression should be allowed to hold down their job! If we worked on that basis then many doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers… the list goes on, and yes also Faith leaders like me would be deemed to be unfit for work, but that simply is not true!
Obviously there is a need to discover what happened, and it might be that something snapped inside Lubitz and that is why he did what he did, but jumping to conclusions and stigamatising people with a history of depression is simply not helpful, all it will do is force people who might have been gaining the strength to begin to talk about thier condition to be silenced once again, as if living with depression is not hard enough.
So I am speaking out, I am not dangerous, neither are many people who are my fellow sufferers, but this I do know, it helps me to talk, it helps me to know that I can find a safe place to be listened to, it helps me to be supported by friends and family and also by the people I work with and amongst. Depression is not a saddness that you can snap out of, it is sometimes caused by undue stress, sometimes a bad attack comes out of nowhere, but perhaps the silver lining to the cloud for me is that I often find that it deepens my faith. Yes I did say that, I often find that depression deepens my faith because it forces me to throw myself completely into the grace, mercy and love of God, and there I discover treasure in the darkness.
We are currently on the edge of Holy Week, Sunday is Palm Sunday, the week after is Easter Day, as a Christian Minister I probably lead more acts of worship during the few days leading up to Easter than at any other time of year and like many I find a richness in it, but the greatest gift I find is in the quiet of Holy Saturday. Lying between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday might be easily overlooked or forgotten, but for me it is a day of holding and waiting, a day where we might encounter our deepest questions and fears, a day when if we dare we might begin to see them being transformed by the God in Christ, who entered into death itself and overcame it.
This world offers us many occassions for these deep questions, there is much to confuse us and add to our doubts, much inhumanity and injustice, and many many inexplicable events and acts. So today I pray for the families of the people who perished on that mountainside in such a terrible way, I pray for those who have so many unanswered questions, I pray for the invsstigators and all of those involved in caring for the bereaved and confused following this disaster. I also pray for folk who have been injuered by these headlines, those who might find themselves stigmatised all over again, and I pray for the friends and family of Andreas Lubitz who might just have more questions than all of us.
My prayers are not eloquent but deep groans, and as I pray I pray that the Spirit of God will come along side me and fill in the gaps in my prayers as only she can, and I take comfort in knowing that all of creation is groaning with us. Will you join me in prayer…