Unfortunately, the current topic circulating in the news is the Germanwings disaster. The news reports are coming in daily with varying angles and commentary, most of which are taking a particularly dim view of mental health as a whole. But how should we respond?
How should the government respond?
The United States government has already responded to this crisis with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Passed in 2009, this law mandated that insurance plans provide the same level of benefits for mental and behavioral health treatment as they do for medical or surgical care (1). This has increased the mental health dialogue in business places across the nation and has made it less taboo for employees to start a conversation about mental health. However, there are miles to go before our dear government can rest, as many Americans continue to struggle to receive full mental health coverage from some insurance companies (2).
How should employers respond?
Despite the diligent efforts of the government, many workplaces are undoing federal successes. In our world of 24/7/365 news cycles, constant cold-emailing and hyper-vigilant supervisors, work in America tends to breed anxiety among employees. Often times, mental health issues are mislabeled as “workplace stress” and employees are encouraged to develop mental fortitude just to survive. But what about those employees who are suffering with an illness, and are not simply stressed out? Often times, they are ignored, and perceive the lack of dialogue about mental health in the workplace as stigma (2). But before employers begin to announce random mental health screenings of employees or unknowingly demonize such maladies, milder steps can be taken. For one, treating mental health awareness training as we do diversity training is a simple and meaningful start, and a beginning many mentally ill employees will undoubtedly appreciate.
How should we respond?
Today, 150 families are in grief around the world. And we should be as well. Lubitz’ family not only has the loss of a member to mourn, but also the stigma and demonizing that has been attached to his actions. Regrettably, such is the common result of crises: a “Lubitz” is singled out and demonized. However, as we personally strive to make sense of this disaster, we encourage you seek information as you do so. Mental health affects each one of us more than we realize, and understanding what it is and how it can be managed is a powerful step in the right direction as we seek to make sense of the crash and similar disasters.
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness (3). These are our neighbors, friends, our parents. We should never wait for a national or personal crisis to arise before we take notice of the very present reality that many of our loved ones live in. Let’s make knowledge and empathy a greater part of our human experience as we seek to move forward.
It may save lives.
1. “Implementation of The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)” SAMHSA. N.P. N.D. Web. 8 April, 2015.
2. Gold, Jenny, “When It Comes To Insurance, Mental Health Parity In Name Only?” Shot: Health News From NPR. NPR. 4 April, 2015. Web. 8 April, 2015.
3. Bekiempis, Victoria, “Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Suffers From Mental Illness Each Year;”Tech Science. Newsweek. 28 February, 2014. Web. 8 April, 2015