complaints, healthcare, mental health, transportation, travel

Mental health crises are health crises, too…

A few days ago, I read an article about a green haired woman who disrupted an American Airlines flight, trying to open the doors while the plane was en route from Texas to North Carolina. She wound up being duct taped to her seat after she attacked the flight attendants trying to calm her down. Someone uploaded a TikTok video of the woman, still bound to her seat, hands behind her back and chest and mouth taped, as people got off the plane. The woman was rocking back and forth, screaming “You! You! You!” on the July 6th trip from Dallas to Charlotte.

I don’t fault the flight attendants for restraining the woman. She was obviously putting people in danger, and something drastic needed to be done. What I do take issue with is the unkind comments people made about this woman, who is clearly having some kind of a mental health breakdown. I read so many comments from unsympathetic people assuming the woman was in control of her behavior. They were calling for her to be jailed, fined, or banned from flying for the rest of her life.

A video about this situation. Apparently, this person was on the plane when this happened.

I watched the video and it’s clear to me that that the woman on the American Airlines flight was having a mental health crisis. We don’t fault people who have seizures, heart attacks, miscarriages, or strokes while flying on airplanes. Those people tend to get compassion and support, rather than derision and cruelty. Why would a crisis involving someone’s mental health be any different? This lady is clearly not rational. She needs medical help from a licensed physician. It’s the same as anyone having a medical emergency on a plane. Her situation just involves her mind, rather than her heart, lungs, or brain.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

These freaks need to be fined, spend time in a cell, and be blacklisted from public transportation for all eternity.
They’re nut jobs without a clue or a prayer. You know they’re all Republicans, too, I should add.
(I don’t know too many Republicans with green hair, but I suppose it’s possible.)

I don’t understand why this continues to be tolerated. A minimum 20-year sentence, six figure fine and lifetime inclusion on the no fly/no bus/no train/no cruise list should put the brakes on it. (Seriously? Does this person really think the woman in that video has a clue about a threatened ban?)

Is this a problem? Would have voted to duct tape her & toss her off the airliner….mid- flight. (And that would probably result in your being sucked out along with her…)

Act like a lunatic on a plane –> join the No Fly List, permanently. (Could she help it? Can you help it when you have medical emergencies?)

Agree these people should Never be allowed to fly any airline Ever !Create a No Fly List . Simple (Is that what you would like to happen to you, should you ever have the misfortune of having a mental breakdown in public?)

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I’m sure the entire plane was tired of her verbal vitriol. (What kind of stupid games?)

I keep thinking of that Airplane scene of the nun slapping the hysterical woman… (Ha ha, very funny, motherfucker.)

A couple of anti-mask types were on my last flight. Their anti-vax T shirts and their refusal to wear masks at the gate, as well as their arrogant, spoiling for a fight, defiant and entitled attitudes worried the rest of us. Luckily they behaved in the air, but why should anyone have to worry about this stuff? (But this lady wasn’t an “anti-mask type”. She has a mental illness and needs medical help.)

To be clear, I did not read that this woman had been belligerent, high, or drunk. I didn’t hear that she was refusing to cooperate with pandemic rules by wearing a face mask. Instead, I read that she was nervous and panicky from the beginning of the flight. She said she was claustrophobic and that, in an of itself, would indicate that she suffers from anxiety. I don’t know why she was flying, or if, for some reason, she didn’t take any meds she might have been on. The point is, she is clearly not mentally well.

Instead of realizing that she’s not well and needs medical assistance, apparently many people think she should go to jail. Some of them claim the woman “deserves” to be taped to her seat. I would submit that it was necessary to duct tape her for the safety of everyone on board. She didn’t “deserve” it, though. Saying she “deserves it” implies that she had control over herself and the situation. She obviously did not.

Over the past sixteen months of the COVID-19 nightmare, I have read a lot of lamenting from people about how “entitled”, “babyish”, “rude”, “inconsiderate”, “defiant”, and “stupid” people are for not wearing face masks or getting vaccinated. I’ve read many lectures about how wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is the “compassionate” thing to do for one’s fellow man. And yet, many of the same people who are lecturing others about being “kind” and “compassionate” by cooperatively wearing face masks and getting vaccinated are also calling for zero tolerance policies in situations like the one on the American Airlines flight. It seems to me that “zero tolerance” and “compassion and cooperation” are concepts that don’t blend well.

Instead of stopping to think about the reality of this situation and the fact that this woman was not in control of herself, some of these folks think she should just be tossed out of society. Many of them seem to think that no amount of jail time is enough. They have a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mentality. Or, they make these kinds of statements and then forget about what they would actually mean.

I have no doubt in my mind that if the green-haired lady gets appropriate medical care for her mental illness, she’ll be alright. I’m sure she didn’t get on that plane with a solid plan to freak out and panic. It’s true that she was biting, spitting, and being violent. Some people say that counts as being “belligerent”. But all you have to do to explain that behavior is think about what happens to animals when they are scared or in pain. Instinct takes over. Even the nicest and most loving pet dog will lash out if he or she is in severe pain or terrified. The same thing happens with human beings who are in a fight or flight mode. Adrenaline kicks in, vision tunnels, and people will kick, scratch, bite, and spit in order to escape. We’re not talking about being “rational” in that state of being. That situation defies rationality.

I wish that people– especially the ones bitching about how unkind and lacking in compassion the “rule breakers” are– would stop and consider that sometimes people who break the rules are in an emergency situation. They aren’t being “rude and inconsiderate” to you when they’re having a mental health breakdown or any other medical crisis. They need competent help, kindness, and understanding. I’m sure that most people would hope and expect for the same, should they ever need medical assistance. Respect, decency, empathy, and compassion go both ways. If you expect it from other people, you should also be willing to give it to others yourself.

I hope the woman from the flight is alright now. I also hope the flight attendants who had to deal with her are alright. I’m grateful that the flight attendants were able to subdue the woman and everyone made it to Charlotte safely. They are to be commended. This story, along with the terrible responses to it, is just one more reason why I’m going to hold off on unnecessary flights for the time being. People are awful.

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mental health, transportation, travel, true crime

The new harmful “delta variant” could also be an off duty Delta flight attendant…

We’ve been hearing about the dangerous “delta variant” of the coronavirus. On Friday, June 11th, 2021, another dangerous “Delta” variant emerged. In this case, it wasn’t a virus that was causing havoc. It was yet another passenger on a transcontinental Delta flight. And this particular “disruptive” passenger wasn’t just any rank and file person; it was an off duty Delta flight attendant.

A couple of days ago, I heard about the scary Delta flight that was forced to divert to Oklahoma City due to an “unruly” passenger. The flight, which had taken off from Los Angeles and was bound for Atlanta, went awry when the off duty Delta flight attendant apparently lost his shit mid flight. According to news reports, the unidentified passenger got on the intercom and told passengers to take their seats and prepare to use the oxygen masks. He reportedly attacked two flight attendants and threatened to bring down the plane. Naturally, that made people pretty tense. Next thing everyone knew, the captain made a request for “strong males” to help restrain a problem passenger.

In a widely circulated video, the aggressive passenger’s screams can be heard as several large men wearing face masks tackle him to the ground. A flight attendant asks everyone to take their seats so the man– likely now a former colleague– can be properly restrained.

Scary!

No one was injured in this incident. After the plane landed in Oklahoma City, law enforcement removed him and took him to a hospital. He was also questioned by the FBI. It’s being said that the flight attendant has “mental health issues”. Gee… you think?

This dude needs a medic!

Many people are reacting to this crisis by suggesting huge fines, lifetime bans, and jail time for passengers that freak out on planes. They reason that the reason there’s been a huge uptick in violent behavior on airplanes is because people are just “brats” who need to be punished. But I watched that video involving the guy on the Delta flight. To me, it looks like he has a mental illness. I doubt very seriously that the threat of a huge fine, imprisonment, or a ban on future flights would have prevented his outburst. Something is clearly medically wrong with him. He needs help from a competent psychiatrist, not a jail sentence or a fine.

Think about this. This guy was a flight attendant for Delta. He was probably on his way to work. Flight attendants often take “deadhead” flights to commute to their assignments if they don’t happen to live in the city where the flight originates. Maybe the guy lives in Los Angeles and had to work a flight originating in Atlanta. Or maybe he was on his way home after working.

The fact that the guy was a Delta flight attendant means he went through eight weeks of rigorous training. According to a 2018 era CNBC article, each year, over 100,000 apply to become Delta flight attendants, and less than one percent get hired. So that means he must have had something good going for him prior to that terrible flight during which he, hopefully temporarily, lost his marbles.

Double that in 2020 and 2021!

I have read that many flight attendants are on the edge of insanity right now, thanks to the huge increase of “unruly passenger incidents” over the past few months. Let’s face it. The events of the past five years have been unprecedented. I remember in 2016, I shared the above photo on social media. In 2021, I look at that photo about how “awful” 2016 was, and realize that we had no idea of what was coming. Seriously… the past five years have been an unprecedented shit show for a lot of people. Many folks who would ordinarily be perfectly calm, normal, law abiding citizens are losing their shit on a daily basis!

According to the Washington Post article I just posted:

The Federal Aviation Administration told The Washington Post this week that it has received about 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1. Roughly 2,200 of those involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear a face covering. The agency identified potential violations in 446 of those cases and has started enforcement action in 42.

Those numbers have grown over the past couple of weeks: When the FAA last released an update on May 24, it had gotten 2,500 reports of bad behavior with about 1,900 involving masks. The agency has not tracked the number of such reports from airlines in past years, but it said it investigated a total of 1,548 unruly passenger cases between 2010 and 2020.

Flight attendants are human too, and they are dealing with unprecedented violence and hostility from stressed out passengers. Is it any wonder that some of them are now dealing with mental health problems?

So… since January 1, 2021, there have been 2900 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. Prior to that, from 2010-2020, there were 1,548 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. That means that in just five months, there have been twice as many “unruly passengers” flying than in the ten years before! That is a HUGE increase.

This phenomenon can’t be happening because every single “unruly passenger” is an unlawful asshole who needs to be straightened out with fines, jail time, and a lifetime ban from flights. People are unusually stressed out and some are legitimately mentally ill. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s much more difficult for those people to access the mental healthcare they need.

Moreover, consider what a pain in the ass flying is even when times are normal. Airports are often busy, stressful places with crowds, noise, and standing in line. Now, everybody has to do that with a face mask on, and increased scrutiny and intolerance from others. I know a lot of people don’t think the masks are a big deal, but the evidence shows that not everyone feels that way. Those people, like it or not, are clearly demanding to be heard.

I have mentioned that I have no desire whatsoever to fly right now. Before the pandemic, we had to contend with high ticket prices, tight seats, inconsiderate recliners, seat kickers, bad food, delays, crowds, and uptight security agents. Now, it seems like there are a lot of people who resent the COVID-19 rules, and a lot of people who are extremely neurotic and hyper-vigilant and demanding about enforcing the rules. Some people are calling for “zero tolerance” rules, which means that every rule violator gets treated the same, regardless of why they are violating the rules. That leads to even more stress than there was before.

Could it be that the Delta flight attendant was possibly dealing with the aftereffects of his very stressful job– a job in which many of his colleagues report increased disrespect and abuse from angry and stressed out passengers? If he also has an organic psychiatric problem, especially if it was untreated, that would only add to the stress. Was he on some kind of medication that he missed? Did he have a psychotic break of some kind? Having watched the video, I can’t agree that he was just someone who was acting like an asshole. He looks like he’s seriously mentally ill. If that’s the case, he has a medical problem, and should be treated as such. We should have some compassion for him instead of insults.

After I read one too many comments about how the airlines need to make things even stricter and more unpleasant for everyone, I had to leave one of my own. I wrote that I didn’t think someone with a mental illness was going to stop and think about zero tolerance policies or onerous consequences before acting out. So those measures won’t do any good. People who are mentally healthy are likely to be cooperative anyway. People who are mentally ill might not be able to help themselves when they freak out.

We wouldn’t punish someone for having a heart attack or a seizure on an airplane, would we? So why would we take those actions when someone has a psychiatric emergency? Psychiatric problems are medical problems, too, and they can often be fixed with medication. I know this from personal experience. The Delta flight attendant who went nuts the other day may be right as rain if he gets appropriate treatment. So why would we ban him from flying for life if all he might need is medical treatment?

Now… if it turns out he was drunk or high or was just being an uncooperative jerk… or he was actually expressing premeditated intentions to hurt people by bringing weapons on the plane– okay. Those people should be punished. There are a lot of inconsiderate assholes out there who probably should be sanctioned. But in this case, I think I’d like to know more about what happened before I would call for a lifetime ban on flying, huge fines, or jail time. If this guy has a mental illness, jail will not help him or society, anyway.

Here’s something else that people may not be considering when they suggest lifetime flying bans. This guy– once a trained Delta flight attendant– must have been normal at some point. Consider that by banning him, the airlines are also going to be banning anyone close to him. I don’t know a thing about this guy’s family situation, but do you think that if Delta bans him, his significant others or children will choose to fly Delta? What about supportive friends and extended family members and their immediate families? That’s a lot of potentially missed revenue for the airlines, and if every single unruly passenger is banned from flying, it could have a serious negative effect on business.

Of course, the counter argument is that people won’t fly unless these “unruly” types don’t get banned. But think about this… how many folks who claim they’ll never fly again are actually going to follow what happens to this man, once he’s out of the news? Maybe someone like me– I like to read follow up news about certain cases. But most people are busier with their lives than I am. They’ll forget all about this once it blows over. A lifetime ban is “forever”, though, and that could have a really serious effect on this guy’s life, even after he gets well. He may not deserve a lifetime ban.

After I wrote my comment that this appears to be a mental health issue and the flight attendant probably wouldn’t have considered the consequences before he acted, the poster to whom I had responded wrote that it would be up to the courts to decide. My response was:

“Exactly. It’s not for you or me or anyone else in the comment section to decide what the appropriate action is in this case. This man needs to be evaluated by a qualified mental health provider, not judged by the masses. Jail would not help someone with a mental health problem and appropriate treatment could make all the difference. I’m sure you would want that kind of forbearance and due process for yourself and your loved ones should you have the misfortune of being affected by a mental illness.”

I honestly doubt this man– who was employed by Delta and no doubt has no doubt felt the huge strain of the past fifteen months, particularly for flight attendants– was planning to act out on this flight. He deserves some consideration for his psychiatric medical problem, if he has one. If clear evidence emerges that he deliberately misbehaved on the flight, that’s another story. Zero tolerance rules usually make zero sense, because every situation is different.

As for me… I continue to avoid flying, if I can. I don’t want to pay for this experience. I would rather wait until things are a bit more under control and “normal”. And I hope this won’t be the “new normal”. We shouldn’t expect that it will be.

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