Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

I received an email from a pilot who came forward during the amnesty period. He has allowed me to post some of his comments, but not his identity. I would first like to comment to him and others like him who have come forward. I know what you did was not easy. You have risked your careers for the hope of improving your health. I understand this was not an easy decision. I applaud you for what you have done as should anyone. I hope and pray that these words can raise a better awareness for what you are going through.

“I am a 36 year old pilot for a major airline. With the support and encouragement of my family I am undergoing the evaluation and re-certification process. As far as I know I am one of about a dozen pilots doing this. I stopped flying on July 25th of this year. At this point I am waiting to hear back from the Federal Air Surgeons office. My experience has been one of frustration. 

The biggest hurdle for me was not in taking the neuropsychological testing, but the lack of infrastructure in the process. I live in a major city and could only find one neuropsychologist who was familiar enough with the FAA to complete all of the testing. I had to call the regional FAA office where I live to find him. My HIMS AME did not even know about him. He actually gave me more of a battery of tests than required just so the FAA could not come back and say that they wanted additional testing on me.

Another hurdle was the monitoring process between my company and the FAA. My company was not going to take me back because the did not want the additional legalities of monitoring me. They have since resolved that issue and once I have my medical back they will put me back online.

While going through this process it seems ridiculous to me that the FAA gave pilots only a six month window for amnesty. I believe the FAA should allow pilots to openly come forward anytime they want. The FAA allows alcoholics to come forward and at any time. There should be the same option for pilots who suffer from depression and are trying to take care of themselves.”

 It is obvious from the experience of this pilot that the process needs some improvements. I myself have attempted to contact the HIMS office to locate an HIMS AME so that I may start the process, but have not received a response to my messages.

I have hope that things will get better. I still think the biggest battle that we have comes from the stigma placed on people who say they suffer from depression. Were it not for the supportive emails I have received from around the world I wish I would not have given the CNN interview. I have many people who now look at me differently. I see looks in people’s faces that say, “Oh, poor Collin. I feel so sorry for him.” Either people that seem to think that depression is nothing and that those who say they suffer from it should just, “Suck it up.”

However, I have put myself in the spotlight. Now I must stand tall and take on the responsibility that has been handed to me. I have done some public appearances. I hope that I am able to make many more presentations. The main topic of my talks has been regarding education to the public. I want to help remove the stigma that surrounds depression.

I have rambled on enough for now.

Keep an eye on the sky!

Collin Hughes

The Prozac Pilot


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