Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fly Those Friendly Skies

We've talked before about whether having the diagnosis of a mental illness should prevent a person from pursuing certain careers. We've also mentioned that pilots, in particular, can not be on psychotropic medications. One concern is that a depressed pilot might not seek treatment because s/he fears losing her job. Is it better to have a pilot with untreated mental illness, or one on medication?

The Wall Street Journal, Shirley S. Wang and Melanie Trottman write that the FAA has reconsidered this policy and will allow pilots to fly if they are being treated with Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, or Prozac. They write:

The new policy doesn't mean pilots who want to begin taking one of the medications can get in the cockpit right away. Before being granted a waiver by a physician certified by the FAA, a pilot must be considered "satisfactorily treated" for 12 months; in the meantime, he or she will be grounded.

For pilots who have been secretly taking antidepressants, the FAA is offering a grace period. The agency said it wouldn't take action against such pilots if they come forward within six months. However, pilots with a recent case of depression or who want to begin a new medication regimen will be subject to the one-year waiting period, according to FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette. "We're really looking for stability," she said.

Grounded for 12 months? Seems like a long time. What do grounded pilots do? Do they get paid? Is this really destigmatization?