Is Andreas a terrorist, or a patient?

It was an emotionally disturbing event, when Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane, killing himself and 149 other people on 24 March Land of the Wind. Our condolences to all family members and friends who lost someone dear to them.

One of the big questions that was raised in the last week, is: “Did Andreas kill himself and all those people, because of his depression, was he a terrorist, or was he a psychopath?”

The event also opened up a lot of debate around mental illness: should someone with a mental health issue report it to their employers? What about confidentiality for patients who will be treated differently?

Much of the debate has also been around the fact that depression may take away your own desire for living. However, there is a lot of confusion as to whether depression led to him taking the lives of those 149 people with him.

Depression is not responsible

The media seems to confuse one issue for the other. Premeditated mass-murder cannot simply be hidden behind a diagnosis of depression.

Dr Albert Viljoen stated : “If Andreas was simply a patient suffering from uncomplicated depression, it wouldn’t have caused him to commit this premeditated mass-murder act. Depression on its own, is not enough to cause this kind of behaviour. We have to consider diagnoses such as psychopathy. My concern, is that people will think his depression would cause him to act in such an extreme way, fearing that their own depression could lead to these kinds of actions.”

Psychopathy

Depression can become complicated – like many other diseases, and, without treatment, some patients develop symptoms that are worse. These should be picked up if they have regular examinations by their psychiatrist.

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Dr Russell Thomson comments : “The key here is not to jump to any medical conclusions. There may well be many factors contributing to what actually happened. Mild to moderate depression my go undetected during the Aviation Medical exam – especially when the pilots know what type of questions to expect. I presume that he may have stopped taking his medication, or his condition simply got worse and possibly he slipped into Psychotic Depression. This means he could have lost touch with reality and possibly even have hallucinations and delusions. I do feel that if pilots had any form of previous mental illness, then they should be exposed to a more detaileded mental state examination than other pilots. These should also be done more frequently for those who are at risk. The big danger is that people think that it was a case of simple depression that was the cause for what has happened here…”

There is still not enough evidence for exactly why he did what he did. His medical history remains unclear, and his very careful, deliberate and considered actions does makes Andreas’ case very complex.

The fact that he didn’t leave a suicide note, adds further tension to exactly what the causes might have been.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think the airliners need to review their medical examination protocols? Why do you think Andreas did what he did? Leave your comments & questions on our Facebook page.