A Focus on Mental Health Awareness and Work Done Through ‘From Sacrifice to Soaring’

Shelair's unique aviation blog series.

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We are in different times today, witnessing a mental health pandemic. While it’s in all industries, at the top of many minds, and affecting the lives of billions daily, my focus has been on the aviation community, predominantly pilot mental health. October 10 was Mental Health Awareness Day, but really, awareness of this issue needs to be taken seriously on a daily basis.

October 27, 2023 – Blog Post #7:

It’s taken me more than 15 years to recover from childhood trauma. I can only do the work today aiding those going through mental health issues because of my healing process, overcoming the adversity and transitioning my mindset. Unfortunately, this is not everyone’s reality in this world. This topic of mental health is a tough one for many to discuss, and for our pilot community, they fear ever sharing their anxiety, depressive thoughts, and issues for the fear of losing their FAA airmen certificate – inevitably, their means to live. Having a government agency’s control of someone’s livelihood looming over one’s shoulder is never comforting. The FAA says, bottom line, a focus on safety, but what does that really mean? We are in the midst of aeromedical reform, and I do not know how many more ‘in air’ and on the ground incidents and accidents we have to witness for the FAA to wake up, create a means for pilots to get help without it affecting the ability to take care of their family. Wake up!

In June 2022, I was featured on a podcast – The Pilots Pandemic – where their main focus is on aeromedical standards, the archaic system that has lost many aviators their wings, and a push for aeromedical reform to counter an old-aged process. What do aviators deal with now? Once disclosing your mental health issue, the special issuance (SI) process to return your medical is 12-24 months, at times even longer. Oh, it gets better! Let’s talk about insurance! Almost all the medical procedures and tests the FAA requires won’t be covered by your insurance, which ends up costing aviators thousands of dollars out of pocket. I am not one to fill a blog with statistics, however, thanks to my friends at “The Pilots Pandemic” fighting this issue like me and others, we work to bring awareness, solutions and a different perspective on the issue. Did you know? 78.6% of pilots reported feeling worried about seeking medical care, 60.2% of pilots reported a history of delaying medical care, and 56.1% of pilots freely admitted to participating in unauthorized behavior due to fear of losing their medical certification. The battles we are up against!

Listen to The Pilots Pandemic Episode #43 here: Lyndse Costabile, From Sacrifice to Soaring – The Pilots Pandemic

As I was preparing this blog, just this past Monday, October 23, an Alaska Airlines Embraer E175 regional jet from Everett to San Francisco had to divert to Portland since an off duty pilot sitting jumpseat attempted to disable aircraft engines while at cruise altitude by deploying the engine fire suppression system.  Luckily, the crew was able to subdue the pilot. It’s now said, 44 year old Joseph Emerson may have been under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. Not entirely sure about that part being factual, but we shall see. Here is the LIVE ATC (starts at 10:56) covering the pilot being subdued: Horizon Air flight 2059. This is not the only case over the five-plus years of a crew member’s “mental state” putting passengers and crew lives in jeopardy, or those that were successful in a suicide mission, taking crew and passengers down with them. Look at the March 2022 China Eastern Airlines where a Boeing 737-800 en route from Kunming, near Hong Kong, went into an intentional nose dive from 29,000 feet and slammed into a mountainside. All on board were killed. Hmmmm…

Let’s not forget what ‘shutting down an entire global economy’ has done to increase our global mental health crisis. With data from FlightGlobal as recent as Spring 2022, 33% of pilots were still grounded or furloughed due to COVID. Even during COVID, those pilots still flying faced deteriorating working conditions. Shocker, I wonder why. I counseled and guided a number of pilots during those few years we ‘keep on’ about COVID, when we needed to get back to work, get off the couch, handle responsibilities caring for our families and still having to…eat and pay bills. Just think about this! The airline industry alone saw more than 400,000 workers fired, furloughed or warned of losing their jobs due to COVID – and according to Forbes in a spring 2021 featured piece, the airline industry was one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy. Aviation – WE MOVE THE WORLD. Right? All those jobs…gone. Now we see the shift of even more mental health concerns. 

At ‘From Sacrifice to Soaring’ (FSTS) we offer a FREE platform for people to find their way through the struggle of mental health, not fear a system or losing their wings, and better yet, we help more than pilots. We’ve assisted those as young as age 5 to 72! Never too old, never too young to seek guidance. Can you add FUN into aiding someone’s mental health needs? Absolutely! At FSTS, we use a flying platform to support those in need to overcome any trauma, adversity or obstacle, yet also, divert them on a path of positive thinking, bringing relief to their lives, living one that is ‘Faith Over Fear.’ We get them to SOAR.

Our mission with ‘From Sacrifice to Soaring’ is to actively coach, mentor, and support survivors of life events with proper forms of healing to embrace their experience rather than let it define them. I’m blessed to use my ‘flying’ platform for good, and to help others in a unique way that energizes the soul, fills the heart, and builds lifelong friendships. 

My dear friends Maddie and Emma at The Pilots Pandemic have evolved! They started a 501c-4 called The Pilot Mental Health Campaign (PMHC). This initiative is dedicated to advocating for modernized mental health policies in the aviation industry. The Mission: build a future where pilots are empowered to seek the mental health treatment they need without the fear of career repercussions, thereby making skies safer for everyone. Check out the details, and get involved here: https://www.pmhc.org/

If you or someone you know needs a safe space, please schedule a time with us and visit our page here: https://fundavconsulting.com/from-sacrifice-to-soaring/f/from-sacrifice-to-soaring

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As I advance this themed monthly blog with Sheltair, you will become more intimately involved in special projects FAC has oversight. Some of these, just to give a teaser, involve WWII aircraft, a presidential aircraft restoration, global flight missions, female flight training scholarships, and more! FAC is now a team of 10 and growing. We love to have fun, we all enjoy the freedom of flight, engaging with industry, and supporting this sector with everything we have. We invite you to learn more about us here: FunDAvConsulting.com

 

Stay tuned for the November blog!