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Copilot apparently concealed his mental illness
The new findings on the cause of the A320 crash raise the public question of what causes a person not only to take his own life, but also to drag 149 people to his death. French prosecutor Brice Robin, after evaluating the cockpit records, explained that 27-year-old copilot Andreas L. had apparently deliberately caused the plane to crash. So far, the investigators have had little to say about his motives, but it is believed that he suffered from depression. According to media reports, torn sick leave was found in his apartment, which also affected the day of the flight. He apparently concealed his illness.
After the pilot left the cockpit briefly and the copilot was left alone, he specifically locked the door and initiated the descent. The copilot no longer responded to the subsequent requests to open the door and incoming radio messages. The public prosecutor concludes from the actions of the copilot that the destruction of the aircraft was deliberately caused here. It is evidently a suicide, a terrorist background cannot be assumed.
What motivations drove the copilot? The public reacted to the results of the investigation with horror, anger and helplessness. The motives of the 27-year-old co-pilot are difficult to explain even for experts. Overall, this form of suicide, in which unknown people are also carried away to their deaths, is relatively rare, reports "Welt Online", citing Manfred Wolfersdorf, chief physician of the clinic for psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosomatic medicine at the Bayreuth district hospital and head of the suicidology department the professional association DGPPN. In the specialist magazine "Neurotransmitter", the expert described the differences between the different forms of suicide. The death of the copilot should therefore be rated as a so-called "homicide suicide", in whose category fall below four percent of all suicides.
No extended suicide A distinction is to be made between homicide suicide and the so-called extended suicide, for example, in which fellow human beings must also lose their lives. However, the latter usually involves people with whom there is a close personal connection. According to the expert, mostly altruistic motifs can be seen here. The perpetrators are convinced that they make the best decision in the interests of all those affected, even if this seems completely absurd for outsiders. For example, it could be the mother who, due to enormous debts, not only kills herself but also her children in order to save them life in poverty and shame, explains Wolfersdorf. An old couple who kill themselves as soon as it is clear that a partner will die of a serious illness also fall into this category.
Decision to commit suicide The situation is different for the copilot. He obviously had no close personal relationship with the passengers on the plane. With this form of suicide, "the motivation to kill others is often hostile to pathologically paranoid," reports Wolfersdorf. In addition, it is rather unlikely that the 27-year-old spontaneously developed the intention to commit suicide in the cockpit and acted impulsively. As a rule, those affected would go through three phases, initially dealing with the idea of suicide and then setting in an ambivalence phase in which those affected still want to live but no longer believe that they can, explains Wolfersdorf in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Newspaper ”(SZ). Those affected feel extremely hopeless and only then do they make the decision. In more than ninety percent of the cases, the decision to commit suicide was implemented within a day and in about fifty percent of the cases, less than an hour passed, Wolfersdorf told the “SZ”.
Were the psychological problems recognizable? Since Andreas L. probably had severe psychological problems, there is also the question after the A320 crash whether these should not have been recognized. The psychotherapist Stefan Leidig from Berlin explained to “Welt Online” that there are no indications of a possible risk of suicide from individual behaviors. "There have to be several problem areas over a longer period of time," says the psychotherapist. People who did not know the 27-year-old co-pilot could therefore not notice anything unusual about him. Nevertheless, it will have to be discussed to what extent adjustments to the previous psychological aptitude test are required. For example, the aviation psychologist Reiner Kemmler told “Hessischer Rundfunk” that the pilot's psychological situation had to be looked at even more closely in the future. Pedagogically and psychologically trained flight instructors are also required for this. (fp)
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