Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On and around Germanwings.

The last few days have been odd for me. The news coverage has been all about the Germanwings crash, the 150 people aboard who died, and the co-pilot who crashed the plane deliberately. As things usually go following something horrible happening, we’re soon inundated with information about the perpetrators of the crime, we see their facebook profile photo, we hear about them from acquaintances. Usually we hear about them being radicalised by a cult or group of some kind. Instead, this week we've been privy to the mental health history of Andreas Lubitz.

There is a lot of talk about his treatment for “suicidal tendencies” and for an apparent doctor's not that told him not to go to work. The validity of these things will make their way to the public soon enough.

This isn't a suicide. He willingly, and with intent, killed 150 people. It took him several minutes to crash the plane. Though he may have been in a dissociative mind set, or maybe was having some type of psychotic break, this was not a “normal” suicide.

Michelle Cornette over at the American Association of Suicidology likens this type of mass murder/suicide to school shootings. I can see that link. Through there seems to be something way more intimate about hunting people in a closed space. Pot-ay-toes / pot-ah-toes of murder/suicide I guess.

Also, as an aside (though linked) the existence of an American Association of Suicidology and the application of a science to studying suicide as a cultural phenomenon will be increasingly important as time goes on. Just last night I was on the edge of discussing the pervasive culture of depression and anxiety with a friend. We broached the subject, but both capitulated to the enormity of the discussion due to the late night hour.  But this is important. And it makes no sense that so many in my age-group live with anxiety and depression. 

Where does this come from? How is it so generationally situated? How do we address it? How do we prevent it in the generations following us?

Everything is linked.

I hate to be so clichéd but I can't help but think of  Chuck Palahniuk's / David Fincher's Fight Club.

Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

But here's the thing... Anger is exhausting. Often what comes next is despair. Is it spiritual despair? Is that what this is? Are we a generation (or generations) of people who just don't see the point?

What I'm seeing now in the coverage of Germanwings is loose talk about stigma. The fact is if you start obstructing people with depression from doing their jobs, the system will fall. We're everywhere, we sad fucks, we mopey folks, we with our glasses half-empty.

When I see anything about Germanwings, I see ways systems failed. I see stigma. I see a lack of follow-up. I wonder about his treatment and what he needed. As more comes out about all of this, I hope the dialogue becomes more engaged, more critical, because right now it's stagnant and over-simplifying depression.

Statistically speaking, of the 150 victims of the crash, some also lived with some sort of mental illness. Many live with it. Those who die by it are often under-represented. In the case of Germanwings my only hope is that the surviving families are able to get support and care, the way most living with depression also require.

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