The stigma of mental illness remains unacceptably alive and well at the organisational and individual level.
One person and one conversation at a time we can change the perception to understand that mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on sex, race, religion, education or income. Indeed understanding mental health is as important as knowing your company’s operating procedures and embracing the latest technological advancements.
One man contributing to those conversations is Kevin Humphreys. A combat helicopter pilot turned civilian rescue pilot. He struggled with a mental illness cocktail of post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and moral injury that culminated in a breakdown; he was contemplating suicide as the only way he thought possible to end the pain. After an initial recovery period of nine months he got back to work and is now the Chief Pilot of Queensland Government Air Rescue.
He was deeply ashamed for ‘allowing’ himself to ‘fail’ by having a breakdown. He kept his ‘failing’ a secret for 7 years until he realised that in reality, that ‘secret’ was actually keeping him.
Kevin now speaks about the battle he won and provides a path for those in uniform showing mental illness is normal, manageable and recoverable for the majority of people. Add mental illness to aviation (one of the most highly regulated industries in the world), and you have an environment where its easier for people to say ‘no’ before they say ‘yes’. Kevin explains why they should be saying ‘yes’.
He is a Community Ambassador for the R U OK? Foundation and welfare representative for the Australian Federation of Air Pilots to promote awareness of mental health as well as addiction issues where the parallels to mental illness are striking.
With 45% of people suffering from some form of mental health issue in their lifetime, normalisation of the topic is required. When that is achieved, individuals will be empowered to raise their hand, get help and return to the work place. A more stable home life will also be achieved. Only through normalisation of the subject can management better do their job, self reporting encouraged and early intervention achieved leading to the best possible outcomes for the individual, the organisation and the community.
This update was kindly provided by Kevin Humphreys, Chief Pilot at QLD Government Air, who presented his abstract ‘The Layman’s Lived Experience of Mental Illness Damaged Goods or Better Than Ever?’ at the 2017 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference.
Find out more about the upcoming 2018 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference this May, and secure your seat here.
Tags: 2017 ANZ Search and Rescue Conference, Mental Health, mental illness, PTSD, sar