20 Nov

Now paging- some mental health help

It’s no secret, dealing with the public means that at times, your job is going to stress you out. But when we shouted out Delta for their recent policiy of providing on site mental health services to their employees, we had a couple reactions:

  1. Cool. We love to see a company taking steps to care for their employees- both physically and mentally…

  2. But also, why now?

Cut to the events in the airline ether of late. It’s not exactly a secret that the skies are arguably less friendly than they’ve ever been, and that more and more aviation team members are struggling to bear the brunt of a seemingly endless societal collective rage. But how did we get here?

It was never ideal...

There were definitely already cracks pre-pandemic

In terms of mental health, people who work on planes or in the airport are already off to a less-than-stellar start. We’re dealing with two main issues here, both of which involve irregularities.

Unpredictable schedules are taxing not only physically but also mentally. We are, at our most primitive, creatures of habit; we like routines. They’re predictable and on a deep level, help us feel safe. Too bad airport shifts and flight schedules are many things, but certainly not predictable. This sense of non-routine can leave one feeling unmoored and adrift and can cause a low-key yet constantly simmering anxiety.

Also, most airline employees have decent insurance, but guess what’s hard to schedule when your schedule is anything but routine? A therapy appointment. Lack of routine keeps people dysregulated and less able to do anything about it- it’s a vicious cycle.

Airport and airline shift workers are also dealing with unpredictable sleep schedules, and this one is a killer (sometimes literally). I speak from experience when I say that even if I knew I needed to be at the airport at 3am, attempting to force myself to sleep at 6pm ended with me either downing a troubling amount of Benadryl, and/or sobbing into my pillow as I counted down to my alarm. And I wasn’t alone.

This is the reality for everyone you encounter in the airport and in the air, and you best believe this FA turned copywriter never takes her standard 8:30 bedtime for granted, ever.

All of these issues mean that aviation employees have to work that much harder just to maintain even a neutral mental health situation, and the fact it was already a struggle definitely set them up for a reckoning in 2020.

Pandemic Problems

So, for already starting out in the negative in terms of mental health, 2020 did airport staff exactly zero favors.

I personally remember the ever-present waking nightmare that was the question of furloughs- would I get the axe? How would I pay my bills?

I ended up taking a leave and finding a temp job anyways, because the flip side of that scenario was working during a pandemic when everybody else was told to shelter at home.

Between the risks of joblessness and those of interacting with huge swaths of people on their travels, the pandemic certainly laid the groundwork for a mental health crisis.

New Normal?

The pandemic showed us some of the best of humanity and arguably some of the worst. Granted, I get it, it was a stressful time- and one none of us knew how to process, since we’d never had to before. That said, there in my opinion there has been an almost palpable societal shift that refuses to abate post pandemic; and it’s the legacy of shenanigans.

But it’s not just me- A June 2023 IATA report states there was one unruly incident reported for every 568 flights in 2022, up from one per 835 flights in 2021. People are truly out here somehow emboldened to say and do exactly what they want, no holds barred.

I’ve witnessed it at the grocery store, and at the gym. And flight attendant friends of mine have certainly felt the impacts in the air.

The new Wild West looks alot like an airport.

We’ve seen the videos of outright assaults both in the skies and in the airports; at the gates and at the check-in desks.

Some of it boils down to the understaffing still plaguing airlines after travel bounced back post quarantine, but again somehow, someway, people seem to have lost what was once a standard decency. And it’s these facts that create a vicious cycle; burnout leads to employees quitting en masse, exacerbating short-staffing that plunges travelers into stressful situations where they react poorly, so guess what? More burnout and less people willing to fill the shoes of a weary aviation team.

Now what?

Well, I think for starters, easing some of the burden on infrastructure is crucial- automating what you can to take the pressure off of the team that you do have is vital.

But also, steps like the one Delta is taking- acknowledging that for better or in this instance, worse, the landscape of aviation jobs has changed. We can all hope for a shift back to a calmer time, but in the interim, providing your people with tools and access to care so that they are better able to deal with these new pressures is key. Showing them you care and that they’re not alone in feeling anxious to go to work, in a job that can already feel isolating could go a long way in long-term retention and thus easing the burden of understaffing.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you’ll find resources below to help, and please remember, you’re not alone:

th|AIR|apy – Take Care for Healthier Skies (getthairapy.org) Specifically developed for flight attendants who are struggling with the new challenges in their jobs.

Websites like betterhelp.com– while they don’t accept insurance, they’re far more affordable than “traditional” therapy and the fact that they’re virtual means a more flexible schedule.

National Anxiety Hotline- If you are in crisis please reach out to 866-903-3787 for support and resources.

Posted by | Posted at November 20, 2023 4:51 pm |
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About us

Airlines depend on ELP Aviation because our software improves operational efficiencies, eases crew interactions, and increases profitability. We offer products that provide scalable and agile solutions based on the individual Carrier’s needs. We’re already thinking about how to solve the next problem.

Learn more
Locations

 

Headquarters:  103 W Spring Ave, Conway Springs, KS, USA

Branch Office: Narayana Enclave, Plot No 610, Road Number 33, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad-500033, Telangana, India.

Contact Us
+ 1 (316) 239-6080

info@elpaviation.com

 

Account
If you are an ELP CrewPortal App user please contact your Airline Department for questions.

@ ELP Aviation, Inc. 2020