Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Civil Aviation Authority
The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions have had, as the Flight Safety Foundation says, “a previously unimaginable impact on our industry … if you are not feeling well, or in control, or you think you are not coping, congratulations, you are normal!”
These are perfectly normal responses to the very challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The Government website has miles of information on how to stay well during this unprecedented time. Visit “Looking after your mental wellbeing(external link)“.
There is also free access to Ministry of Health professional support by text or phone 24/7 at this number 1737.
Below is some aviation-specific information that may be of use to you.
Peer Assistance Network
Operating since 2015, the Peer Assistance Network (PAN)(external link) has been providing guidance and counselling to hundreds of aviation professionals, from trainees to senior airline captains, and air traffic controllers.
Central to PAN is a volunteer network of aviation professionals, who all understand the special pressure of working in the industry, particularly what’s happening right now.
They’ve been trained by psychologists, as well as other specialists in things like suicide prevention, grief counselling, and listening skills.
Anyone wanting to talk can ring 0800 726 100, and ask to speak to the PAN programme. There’s someone available 24 hours.
Or you can visit the PAN website to talk to a peer(external link).
If you suspect your drinking may have become a problem during the pandemic, know that you’re not on your own, and that there is help.
The Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS)(external link) is not how it sounds. It’s a programme for members of the aviation community, and it aims to help anyone whose use of alcohol or other drugs is worrying them.
HIMS understands that substance abuse is not a moral failing, or poor willpower, but a treatable illness. There’s loads of genetic and medical evidence supporting this.
HIMS is modelled on well-established, successful overseas programmes that have helped thousands of pilots worldwide to get back to work.
What you should look for – in yourself or in someone else
Is the use of alcohol affecting the person’s health, their relationships, causing problems at work or with the law?
Do they do things after drinking which they would normally regard as unacceptable behaviour?
Do they forget large aspects of what they did when drinking?
Are others challenging them about their drinking, and do they resent those challenges?
What about other recreational drugs?
Alcohol is the most widely used mind-altering drug in our society, and the one with the greatest overall impact on aviation safety. The warning signs above are similar for other recreational drugs, although there are additional risks associated with them.
You can make a confidential enquiry if you want. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also at the HIMS website(external link), there are the names and cellphone numbers of experienced aviation professionals who have been HIMS-trained.
Flight Safety Foundation
For some practical material on maintaining, improving, or regaining your emotional equilibrium during this unequalled time of distress and uncertainty, see the FSF publication “An Aviation Professional’s Guide to Wellbeing(external link)” (it’s a PDF near the bottom of the page).
There are also self-evaluation tools, and some tips on improving stress, anxiety, and other conditions that don’t work in your favour.
As FSF says, “The COVID-19 hazard is not just work-related, it is everywhere we go, and for many of us this is unnerving. We have constant reminders of the need for hand hygiene, and rightly so, but we also need mental hygiene, to flush our heads of the non-stop worry, stresses and fear of the unknown. COVID-19 is not just a biological virus, it is also a psychological contagion.”
The FSF has also published what it calls ‘safety punch lists’ for operators, from airport owners to maintenance providers.
These lists are a series of things to consider, whether your organisation is continuing to function, or has reduced or closed. There’s also a list for organisations if and when they re-establish operations.
The advice to operators with reduced work includes:
Consider reduced performance of staff, and increased risk in the system, due to fear and uncertainty about the future
Consider the possibility that staff fearing for their jobs might not behave rationally, say in failing to report an occurrence.
The advice to organisations which may be re-establishing operations includes:
Ensure just culture policy is known and understood, and be aware of reduced performance of staff through distraction, stress or even complacency.
Be aware of the mental health state of those people continuing to work, and consider the personal relationships between them and those stood down or made redundant.
For the full list of safety ideas, visit COVID-19 Safety Toolkits(external link).