Even before Covid-19, the statistics surrounding mental health make for grim reading.
Every week in the UK, 125 people tragically take their own lives, 75% of whom are men under the age of 50. Health experts and charities, including The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), have warned the government that the coming winter is set to devastate the mental wellbeing of the nation, as the psychological fallout from the pandemic, including lockdown anxiety, job losses, isolation and other worries, is exacerbated by the colder and darker months.
The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people, almost a fifth of the population of England, will need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19.
According to a report by the Lancet Commission, more than 15 million days were lost to absence arising from anxiety, stress and depression in 2018. The report stated that mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world, which could cost the global economy up to $16tn by 2030 if not addressed urgently.
This report was produced pre-Covid-19, so it’s inevitable that the next available data will paint a bleaker outlook.
For the UK aviation community, the impact from Covid-19 has been profound. In the space of just six months, the volume of commercial flights has reduced by over 95% with the loss of 165 million passenger journeys, prompting every airline to undertake significant staff redundancies. As well as operators, the repercussions for airports and businesses in every part of the aviation supply chain have been equally severe which, when grouped together, has created a huge economic shock to the UK economy.
Established in May 2020, Aviation Action is a charity that was set up in Manchester to provide mental health support specifically for those working within the UK aviation industry. The charity supports the aviation industry across the board, from pilots and firefighters to caterers, engineers and cabin crew. Run by volunteers, Aviation Action aims to help aviation colleagues to get back on their feet if they are facing difficult times both personally or professionally. Whether it’s advice or friendship, or the need for expert legal and financial guidance, the charity offers a valuable resource in these challenging times, that understands the specific needs of the aviation community.
At the British School of Aviation, a face-to-face mental health support initiative is under development, for launch in the New Year, which will aim to provide a Covid-Secure ‘safe space’ for colleagues who work in and around London Luton Airport, where BSA has its training facility.
According to BSA Chief Executive, Matt Harvey, the importance of preserving mental health is just as important as maintaining physical wellbeing:
“If we’re not healthy workers, then we cannot be safe workers and nowhere is this more important than in aviation. Positive mental health or ‘emotional fitness’ is crucial to our overall wellbeing and BSA is committed to playing its part in supporting aviation colleagues. As an industry, we have a collective responsibility to look after our people and protect them from the dangers of mental ill health.
“Just by checking in with colleagues regularly, we can make a difference in positive mental reframing, in effect helping people to take the “glass half full” approach, which is proven to have strong positive mental health benefits, alongside daily physical exercise. We look forward to rolling out our initiative over the coming months, which we hope will make a meaningful difference to those in need of support in our area.”
Other resources available to aviation colleagues include:
European Pilot Peer Support Initiative
A practical guide to assist flight crews in recognising, coping with and overcoming potential problems in normal operations, as well during the pandemic.