Advocating for Your Well-Being

An Introduction to the Pilot Mental Health Campaign (PMHC)

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Editor’s Note: Please join Aero Crew News as we welcome new contributor, Shannon Torres. Her new column, Aero Medical, will be dedicated to aviation medical law, pilots' medical rights, and the Pilot Mental Health Campaign with which she is involved. Shannon brings awareness, information and experience in these areas that deeply concern our community of aviators. What you read here, and in subsequent columns, will enlighten you and provide valuable insights that you may find helpful for yourself or perhaps for a colleague. To learn more about Shannon and her credentials, please visit her bio attached to her picture at the end of the column. As with all our content, we are interested to read your comments and review any input you have. Write to info@aerocrewnews.com.
(The Pilot Mental Health Campaign Lobbying for Aeromedical Reform in Washington DC, March ‘24; Photo Credit: PMHC)

If you're like most pilots, when life throws you curveballs, you might find yourself leaning on a close friend, your partner, or maybe even just keeping things bottled up. But eventually, juggling these stressors takes a toll. Suddenly, your time at home feels strained, your relationships are feeling the pressure, and that tension in your neck is becoming a regular guest. It's totally understandable to want some guidance on how to navigate all of this without adding more strain to the mix. Unfortunately, for most in the industry, this is easier said than done.

The Unique Demands of the Aviation Industry

Pilots face a unique mix of stressors at work that can significantly impact their mental health. This includes a heavy responsibility for others, long hours, irregular schedules, a constant pressure to perform, and feeling isolated (to name a few). Even one of these stressors can throw someone off balance, but when you pile them together without any form of support or help, it’s like setting the stage for disaster.

A lot of pilots avoid seeking help because they’re worried about losing their medical, but ignoring the stress that naturally comes with this lifestyle can lead to serious conditions like anxiety, depression, burnout, or even substance abuse. As National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy put it, “There is a culture right now, which is not surprising to me, that you either lie or you seek help. We can't have that. That's not safety.” (Source: ABC News)

Jennifer Homendy, the Pilot Mental Health Campaign, and others at the NTSB Summit; Photo Credit: PMHC

By keeping things under wraps and dodging the topic, pilots and the industry are setting themselves up to fail. It's time for the aviation industry to step up, acknowledge these stressors, and take steps to proactively support pilots’ mental health and well-being. It's time for a change.

Understanding Pilot Mental Health

From the beginning, pilots are taught that they need to be superhuman. If you feel stress, “deal with it.” If you let your emotions out, you’re not “tough enough.” This mindset creates a culture where struggles are swept under the rug. In an industry where mental health is already a taboo topic, the FAA's outdated mental health policies only add fuel to the fire, making it even harder for pilots to speak up and seek help in an environment of silence and secrecy.

According to a recent study done by Dr. William Hoffman, 56.1% of pilots avoid seeking some form of talk therapy or mental healthcare due to the fear of losing their medical. This can lead to pilots:

  • Seeking cash therapy or divulging through “Cockpit Counseling”
  • Turning to alcohol and/or drugs
  • Not getting treatments that have been proven to help
  • Spiraling into a worse situation (that could have been avoided through care)

With recent events shining a spotlight on the need for better mental healthcare for pilots, the FAA's Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) is working hard to push forward recommendations for a safer approach to pilot mental health and safety. The thing is, these recommendations alone won’t be enough. “I’ve always been convinced that policy makers would care if they only knew that this was an issue, but because of the institutional and generational stigma surrounding this issue, the numbers of us who reach out to them are so small that it makes the problem seem less significant than it really is. The only way to change that is if enough of us tell our lawmakers how the system is affecting us.” Wise words from Brian Bromhoff, Founder of the Pilot Mental Health Campaign (PMHC).

About the Pilot Mental Health Campaign

(Brian Bomhoff, Founder of PMHC, speaking at the NTSB Roundtable on Mental Health; Photo Credit: PMHC)

Introducing the Pilot Mental Health Campaign (PMHC). Led by Brian Bomhoff, PMHC’s mission is to shake things up in the world of aviation by advocating for policy changes, providing mental health education, and organizing grassroots efforts. Their ultimate goal is to modernize the aeromedical system and the FAA's approach to mental healthcare.

PMHC is focused on removing the stigma surrounding mental health and pushing for modernization of the Special Issuance (SI) process. They want to make it more affordable, efficient, and transparent. Their main aim – prioritizing the mental well-being of pilots and ensuring the safety of the flying public. Ultimately, they're striving to improve pilots' access to high-quality, evidence-based treatments that cater to their unique mental health needs.

Since their start in 2023, PMHC has gained national attention, has been invited to the NTSB Roundtable on Mental Health, and hosted not one, but two Lobby Days in Washington D.C. Plus, they're a regular presence at industry conferences and events, spreading the word and connecting with aviators who share their vision for change. (Source: Washington Post, NTSB YouTube, PMHC Website). They are also working with several members of congress on possible legislation to help enhance and further the recently published ARC recommendations.

“We envision a world in which all members of the aviation community are able to seek and receive the care they deserve without fear of losing their passion or livelihood for arbitrary, unfounded reasons.” – Brian Bomhoff, Founder of PMHC

Getting Involved

(Photo Credit: PMHC)

The Pilot Mental Health Campaign is paving a way for pilots to know that their stories matter. With every story that is shared, more pilots are feeling seen, heard, and finally knowing that it’s okay to talk about these issues out loud.

“In my capacity as Volunteer Engagement Director at PMHC, I have the honor of getting to know the individuals that help make up the Pilot Mental Health Campaign. After our successful Lobby Day, the resounding feedback was that aviators felt heard, their families felt seen, and our collective voice felt recognized.” – Madolyn Miller, PMHC Director of Volunteer Engagement

Prioritizing mental health isn't just essential; it's a testament to our resilience and commitment to safety. The Pilot Mental Health Campaign stands as a beacon of support, reminding pilots that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and knowing that you are never alone in your journey.

Feeling inspired or want to get involved? Head to www.PMHC.org to learn more about volunteering or supporting the Pilot Mental Health Campaign. Here, you will find a welcoming community of fellow aviators who understand the importance of speaking up and supporting one another.

Come join us, today! For more Information visit www.PMHC.org.




SOURCEAero Crew News, June 2024
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Shannon Torres, a former CACREP-Accredited Counselor, embarked on a unique career journey by transitioning to aviation in 2019. During her tenure with a 121 carrier, she became acutely aware of the unseen struggles and stressors faced by pilots. Motivated by a desire to bridge the gap between personal wellness and professional excellence, she founded Aviation Conversations in 2023. This coaching business is tailored specifically for pilots who seek to harmonize personal well-being, stress management, and career success from a space that is safe and considered medically non-reportable. Additionally, Shannon is deeply invested in advocacy efforts within the aviation community. As a volunteer for the Pilot Mental Health Campaign (PMHC), she contributes to a non-partisan, grassroots movement dedicated to fostering a culture of health and well-being within aviation. Through her involvement with PMHC, she actively promotes FAA aeromedical reform, advocating for the holistic well-being of pilots. Shannon Torres embodies a commitment to a healthier and more resilient aviation industry. For further information or inquiries, please reach Shannon at Shannon@AviationConversations.com. "Because everyone deserves a safe space to land, including you."

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