The French Alps plane crash tragedy has left many looking for explanations as to why this occurred. According to an article published on April 1 in the New York Times titled “Lufthansa Faces Mounting Challenges as More Details of Germanwings Crash Emerge,” co-pilot Andreas Lubitz took control of Flight 9525 and deliberately crashed it in the French Alps, killing himself and 149 others. The article highlights Lubit’s history of severe depression as possible cause for the incident.
What happened in the French Alps is not common, and most depressed individuals are not going to crash a plane into a mountain killing lots of other people. However, the buzz around depression as the catalyst of this tragedy has taken a complex emotional experience and turned it into a one-dimensional social disease. Depression is not an incurable social leprosy, but treating it like one will only encourage more people to avoid getting help.
Depression is complex, and one person’s experience can be different from the experience of another. Psychology has many different theories about the origin and cause of depression. If you don’t believe me ask any psychology professor or just consult one of the many psychology textbooks available on campus.
College is one of the most stressful experiences around. I’ve had my share of these stressful experiences. What helped me the most was finding others with similar experiences who could empathize and relate with me. I needed that connection with others, a connection that is denied to many when we attach negative labels and stigmas to things like depression.
I know from my conversations with peers that the topic of depression is sensitive, but the secretive behavior around depression is what gives the stigma so much power. If we could be more transparent about our emotions and communicate them freely without the fear of being seen in a negative light, then things could be different.
Strong communities and strong relationships can help to create this safe environment. I experienced this firsthand in a psychology class I took with Dr. Jeffery Banks last semester. We gathered each week and sat in a circle talking about our lives, our aspirations and our personal struggles. The environment was one of acceptance and love where people could express themselves fully. I always left the class feeling re-energized because of my ability to connect with others in an authentic manner. I think we all could benefit from such a safe environment.
While not all of us can have the opportunity to take a class like Dr. Bank’s InterPersonal communication class, there is another great place to experience the same feeling of safety, the Counseling Center. Depression is just one of the many struggles we can face during our time at Pepperdine, but the realization that others just like us are experiencing a similar process normalizes these experiences.
The answer to the current crisis is not the professional witch hunt of strict mandatory mental health screenings. Instead, it is fostering a safe place where people can come without fear.
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