Airline views on mental health

I have posted on here a few times previously and you all have been very helpful answering all my questions. I am starting ATP in a few months with my PPL. Recently I’ve been stressing about things a lot more than usual, and everyone gets stressed at some points. I was considering seeing a therapist to talk things out and see if that would help, but then I talked to my FAA doctor about it and he basically told me that if I saw a therapist he probably wouldn’t be able to issue my a first class medical after. Everyone deals with some level of daily stress/anxiety and I’m just wondering why the airlines have such a harsh view of people who want to try to better their mental health.


A couple of things. First, I respectfully don’t agree with your AME and think you may want to consult another. The mere act of seeing a therapist should not prevent you from getting your medical. If however you’re diagnosed with depression (which unfortunately happens too often), or the therapist determines your anxiety to be greater than “normal”, then you may have some trouble getting your medical as you’ll have to report that to the FAA when applying, hence his concern.

Second we’re talking about your FAA medical so it’s the FAAs view that’s your AMEs concern, not the airlines. That said the airlines are concerned as well. They have responsibility to the flying public. Further if a pilot were to suffer a breakdown or worse (ie, GermanWings), aside from the tragic loss of life, if the airline was aware the pilot had issues they would open themselves up to tremendous liability.



Plenty of pilots see therapists, usually for “adjustment disorder”, family counseling, or something along those lines. I would speak to another AME.


I won’t speak about this from the FAA angle, but rather from the health perspective. You should consider that as was mentioned above, many types of counseling are not considered therapy or mental health visits. Stress management and help with adjusting to new or difficult situations, are merely teaching you problem-solving strategies, anger management, and coping resources and strategies. Many of these types of counseling are not even given in a “doctors” office. For example, in the military we have places (the Navy calls them Fleet and Family Service Centers) that are totally separate from the medical clinic or hospital, where uniformed members or their family members can go for marriage counseling or dealing with stress or short-term anxiety issues. Unless the person seeking help discloses that they want to hurt themselves or others it doesn’t even get reported anywhere permanently, and certainly not in the medical record.

Bottom line, look for other options to work through your stress and you may be able to hold off on a mental health examination for now. Only you know your true mental health status though. If you are truly worried, as was mentioned with the German pilot who obviously didn’t pay enough attention to his need for mental health attention, the FAA rules should not stop you from getting the help you need.