Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is being ill-served by the frenzy of people who desperately need explanation. Validated by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, people want an easily graspable handle to help understand disasters like the March 24, 2015 crash of a Germanwings passenger jet into the French Alps that killed 150 people. In my opinion psychiatry and public mental health are disgraceful professions, discreditable and obscene. But anyway … there is a need to find something to blame or scapegoat. French officials quickly blamed the incident on a deliberate act of murder-suicide by the relatively young co-pilot, Lubitz. Mental health experts who study mass murder-suicide say that depression and thoughts of suicide, which are commonplace, fall far short of explaining such drastic and statistically rare acts as deliberately flying a commercial jet into the ground. In the case of Mr. Lubitz there is something fundamentally different, aside and apart from his alleged depression, and that is where investigators need to look for answers. Mass murder-suicides often involve feelings of begrudgement against a perceived or anticipated slight, usually aimed at a person - like an ex-wife, ex-lover, or employer - and the many accompanying stresses. Megalomania might be involved as well as a thirst for publicity and attention. Where is the evidence of these in Mr. Lubitz’s personality profile?
Suicidal thoughts by themselves are not a symptom of mental illness so much as a symptom of simply being human. Imagining self-murder is, in fact, eminently human and so easily falls within the bounds of ‘normal’ human thought (similar to how homosexuality easily falls within the range of ‘normal’ human sexuality). That is because of all animal species only humanity can imagine our annihilation, making the question ‘To be or not to be’ both charismatic and normal. Some call it morbid and pathological. Others do not. I am less worried by people who might admit having thought of suicide at some time in their lives than I am by people who deny it comprehensively. That is, people who are so stupid, dull, slow, unimaginative, unfeeling and inhuman that they have never ventured in that direction. If you want to have credibility as a human being then there is no shame in admitting having had suicidal thoughts. In fact, the shame would be in their total denial. Credibility kinds of requires them.
Psychiatry and public mental health are disgraceful professions, discreditable and obscene.
Anyway, the link between depression and thoughts of suicide on the one hand and the decision to deliberately fly an aircraft into the ground on the other - if that is what really happened - is more imaginative than real. It has to do more with people’s pathological need to manufacture a narrative that corresponds to our cultural myths - the myth of the correspondence of suicidal thoughts with mental illness - than it has to do with reality. We will never know what really happened on flight 9525, but that won’t stop us from convincing ourselves that we do and then promptly forgetting that we had to compose the narrative in the first place.