Aviation, where the skies promise unexpected adventure, there is a silent crisis that has been plaguing our industry. Just 5 days ago, our aviation community was shattered yet again as we lost – another flight attendant, who had dedicated their lives to ensuring our safety in the skies. 170 days ago, March 20th we lost Kayleigh, August 23rd we lost Spencer, and now 5 days ago September 1st we lost Kelly Ann to suicide. It’s a harsh reminder that we need to confront the horrific issue of suicide in aviation and extend a hand to those who may be silently suffering.
Behind the tattered, high mileage uniforms and welcoming smiles of flight attendants lie the hidden struggles that we face daily. The demands of our profession can take a heavy toll on our mental health. Irregular schedules, constant time zone changes, lack of support from management, lack of support and empathy from passengers, missing out on life at home, financial strain, mental strain, physical ailments, and long days away from their loved ones can create an emotional battleground, one we use many addictive vices to cope. But it doesn’t end there. Flight attendants, pilots, ground staff, and air traffic controllers all bear the weight of the responsibility that no one gives enough credit. They are the back bone of the airlines, maintaining an appearance of strength and composure – both physical and emotional to keep the skies safe and moving.
The most challenging aspects of this crisis is the silence that surrounds it. The beautiful pictures we post, the destinations we visit, the smiles we fake are all smoke and mirrors most times to mask the isolation we are experiencing. Many aviation professionals suffer in silence, fearing the stigma or the embarrassment attached to mental health issues. The fear of being perceived as “unfit” for our roles or the worry of jeopardizing our livelihood (financial or grounded) often keeps most of us from reaching out for help. This silence only intensifies the pain and isolation so many crew members are experiencing.
The truth is that we have lost sight of the heart of what makes aviation successful: the dedicated and resilient people who work tirelessly to ensure safety. These people are now struggling, they have been struggling. The same people whose smiles light up a room, give jumpseat therapy, who show us resilience, are deciding to no longer live. What are we doing wrong? This industry has changed and we cannot say for the better. We have crew with tattered uniforms, cannot afford to house or feed themselves, cannot even get sick without the reprimand of a performance point for something out of their control, the need for mental health care but no extra finances to pay for it, the shift in the industry post COVID-19, and the list goes on.
Flight attendants are more than just service providers, we are safety professionals who deserve CARE; Our well-being matters, and it’s high time airlines, unions, passengers, stakeholders, the federal government, and our respective communities, recognize our struggles and offer support. The loss of even one aviation professional to suicide is one too many. It’s a heavy reminder that the industry needs reform and we can work together to save lives. Humanity must return to aviation because lives are hanging in the balance. We are not robots. We must break the silence surrounding mental health issues and make it known that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but an act of courage which in turn helps others come forward. We cannot say we care and then don’t exercise it. No matter the department in aviation, come out of the shadows and let one someone help you. The mental health organization th|AIR|apy was created to be a safe haven for Flight Attendants to feel seen, valued, and supported. We need to do more. EAP needs reform, we need accessible mental health care, we need the DOT & FAA to revamp rules that does not serve the current state of aviation.
This post is in memory of the flight attendants we have lost and for the well-being of those who continue to serve humanity in the skies and on the ground.
RESOURCES OF SUPPORT
- If you need support text “CREW” to 833-532-1096 or via WhatsApp or 911 if you are in immediate danger
- If you are struggling with substance abuse reach out to FADAP, please visit their link: HERE
- Join our Facebook Community: HERE
- Visit us on Instagram: HERE
RIP to Kayleigh, Spencer, and Kelly Ann, your memories live on in each of us.