United States – The panel, consisting of some experts appointed by the Federal Aviation Administration, opined on Monday that the agency must drop a condition where the pilots and air traffic controllers are required to report about their talk therapy sessions.

Panel Urges FAA to Reconsider Reporting

“The FAA should develop a non-punitive pathway for reporting previously undisclosed mental health conditions, treatments, or medications,” suggested a panel whose members include aviation associations, the pilot as well as air traffic controller organizations, academia, and medical specialists, conceded the panel’s members.

The matter had taken on a whole new perspective when an off-duty Alaska Airlines ALK.N pilot in October got charged with trying to disable the engines of a jet in-flight and later disclosed to media that it was his nervous breakdown.

Pilots must be able to see a therapist without declaring it in the opinion of the panel, adding: “It is indisputable that the requirement to disclose talk therapy leads to healthcare avoidance and non-disclosure.”

The FAA comments that it is looking into whether such recommendations could be used to help pilots and air traffic controllers ” break down barriers that prevent pilots and air traffic controllers from reporting mental health issues.”

Pilots have to comply with a mixed bag of rules and can be barred from flying for six months straight if they adjust doses or switch medications after a period of taking anti-depressants or drugs to tackle anxiety problems. According to the checked itinerary, it has to be tightened to 2 months.

The panel advises the FAA to consider the revision of its current policy that makes a pilot or a controller unfit to work once they start treatment or even when they take any ADHD medications.

FAA’s Response and Future Actions

The Chairman of the FAA also said that the FAA would address the open recommendations from a July report of the inspector general’s office about pilot mental health, whose lack of disclosure of mental health conditions put the limits on safety risks.

The chair of the National Transporter Safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, has already stated that the FAA approach to the mental health of pilots does require a radical overhaul.

“The current system is broken and has been for a long time,” Homendy told Reuters earlier, saying pilots are fearful “they could lose their job if you mention you are going to talk therapy.”

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