TIME Depression

How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

While it’s not clear exactly why Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into a French mountainside, the black box from the cockpit raises questions about whether mental health issues were involved, and how aviation officials identify and monitor the mental health of pilots.

Prosecutor Brice Robin said that the cockpit recordings suggest the lead pilot was locked out of the flight deck after leaving for the restroom, and that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz “voluntarily allowed the aircraft to lose altitude. He had no reason to do this. He had no reason to stop the captain coming back into the cockpit.” As investigators search for a second black box, experts are trying to piece together the reasons why Lubitz acted the way he did. His mental state remains a possible cause.

If the investigation reveals that mental health played a role, it wouldn’t be without precedent. In a 2014 study in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, researchers looked at 20 years of data for what they called “aircraft assisted suicide.” From 1993-2012, 24 of 7,244 plane crashes were thought to be deliberately caused by a pilot. That’s less than 1% of the total, but it’s still enough to raise questions about the mental health stressors of pilots.

“I really wish that we had some kind of deeper thinking about this issue, because it’s one of the most difficult in aviation medicine,” says Alpo Vuorio, MD, PhD, the study author and an aviation specialist in occupational medicine at the Mehiläinen Airport Health Centre in Finland. He screens pilots and cabin crew of commercial airlines for health issues—including mental health issues—and says he sees any given commercial pilot once a year for a short visit.

Commercial pilots have to pass a physical and mental evaluation every six months (for those over 40) or once a year (for those under 40) in order to be certified to fly a passenger plane. The emphasis, however, is on the physical and less on the mental, mainly because mental health is harder to quantify.

“You somehow try to see if the pilot is well, and it’s not the easiest thing,” Vuorio says. Pilots answer yes-or-no questions about their mental health, Vuorio says, like if they’ve ever tried to attempt suicide or visited a psychiatrist. “You speak yes or no, but it’s up to you, what you tell,” he says. Pilots can visit several different locations for these examinations, he says, and if they don’t occur in house, past data don’t appear on the screen.

And pilots aren’t likely to divulge any potential mental health problems, including signs of depression or anxiety, because that would take them out of the sky. “Pilots aren’t going to tell you anything, any more than a medical doctor would about their mental health,” says Scott Shappell, professor of the Human Factors Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University who is a former pilot and crash scene investigator.

Pilots, like doctors and policemen and others with high-stress jobs, tend to be good at compartmentalizing — walling off difficult or emotional experiences so they don’t interfere with their ability to function day-to-day. Medical examiners who evaluate pilots for their recertification also aren’t always trained in mental health, so they may not recognize subtle signs of conditions such as depression or alcoholism.

According to Dr. William Sledge, medical director of the Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital who has evaluated pilots for the Federal Aviation Administration, about 40% of pilots he saw were for alcohol related problems, and a third for depression or anxiety. Only about half of the latter group reported their problems themselves, however. The other half were referred to Sledge only after incidents required their superiors to intervene.

“The problem is there is no incentive” to report mental health issues, says Shappell. “They know that if they self report, the way the system is designed, it will be a black mark.”

In a statement, the FAA said: “Pilots must disclose all existing physical and psychological conditions and medications or face significant fines of up to $250,000 if they are found to have falsified information.”

In the case of mental health evaluations, pilots are taken off the flight schedule while they are treated or begin antidepressant medications. Until 2010, even these drugs were banned, and pilots required them could no longer fly.

When the U.S. Air Force began requiring annual suicide prevention and awareness training in 1995, including screening for mental illness, the suicide rate plummeted from about 16 suicides per 100,000 members to about 9.

Even for experts, however, judging whether a pilot is suicidal is one of the hardest parts of the job. That’s no surprise, since the struggles of spotting and talking about suicide plague our entire society, says Barbara Van Dahlen, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and president of Give an Hour, a network of volunteer therapists. “In our society we are so quick to try to make it ok, to say it will pass and to say suck it up,” she says. “We really don’t listen to ourselves and we don’t listen to others very effectively.”

But pilots and others in high-pressure occupations face several unique stressors, she says, like having a physically demanding job and being responsible for other lives. “In a lot of positions of authority and leadership, those people are supposed to be capable and on top of things,” she says. “They don’t have a lot of people to share with and talk to, to be less than perfect and less than OK. That adds to the stress.”

One study of suicides among general aviation pilots—civilians who aren’t leading scheduled commercial flights—published in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, looked at 21-years’ worth of general aviation accidents as reported by the National Transportation Safety Board between 1983-2003. During that time, 37 pilots either committed or attempted suicide by aircraft, and nearly all resulted in a fatality. 38% of the pilots had psychiatric problems, 40% of the suicides or attempts were linked to legal troubles, and almost half, 46%, were linked to domestic and social problems. 24% of the cases involved alcohol and 14% involved illicit drugs.

Having ready access to a plane also seemed to be a contributing factor, too; 24% of the crashed planes in the study were used illicitly.

TIME National Security

National Guard Soldier Arrested For Trying To Join ISIS

His cousin, accused of plotting an attack on a U.S. military base, was also arrested Wednesday

A National Guard soldier and his cousin have been arrested in Illinois for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS), the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Hasan Edmonds, a 22-year-old member of the Army National Guard, had planned to travel to Egypt and team up with the Islamist militant group, according to a criminal complaint filed on Wednesday. Hasan’s cousin Jonas Edmonds, 29, is accused of intending to use information provided by his cousin to carry out an attack on the U.S. military facility in Illinois where Hasan had been training. The FBI said it learned of the plan when Jonas asked an uncover agent to help carry out the attack. Jonas allegedly told the agent he would provide uniforms and information about the base.

Hasan was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday evening where the FBI said he planned to begin the first leg his journey. Jonas Edmonds was arrested at his home in Aurora, Ill.

“We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon in a press release, using an alternate abbreviation for ISIS. “Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice.”

The cousins had described their plans to an undercover FBI officer, the complaint says. Both were charged with conspiracy to provide support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Read more: U.S. Intel Chief: Roughly 40 Americans Have Returned From Syria

 

TIME justice

U.S. Agents Attended ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Colombian Drug Cartels, Report Says

Some of the DEA officers may have received expensive gifts from the drug cartel

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels while on assignment in Colombia, according to allegations in a new report.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) report, a review of sexual misconduct allegations at several law enforcement agencies, cited widespread missteps at the agencies, including the failure of supervisors to report misconduct, inadequate guidelines for handling some behavior and a resistance to cooperating with DOJ requests.

The “sex parties” in particular were listed as an example of weak security operations at the DEA. Some of the DEA officers may have received expensive gifts from the drug cartel, the report found. Ten DEA officers admitted that they had attended the parties and were suspended for a period that ranged from 2 to 10 days. Despite the punishment, the officers did not have to undergo a review of their security clearance, according to the report.

The report also said that agencies need to clarify rules on whether officers can patronize prostitutes in countries where the practice is legal or tolerated.

“When employees of law enforcement components commit sexual misconduct or sexual harassment…it affects the component’s reputation, undermines its credibility, and potentially compromises the government’s efforts in prosecutions,” the report reads.

The DEA referred questions on Thursday to the Justice Department.

DOJ commissioned the investigation in 2012 in response to allegations regarding DEA officers’ use of prostitutes. At the time, Secret Service officers were also under fire for similar behavior.

TIME Management

6 Charts Showing Tech’s Gender Gap Is More Complicated Than You Think

See why it's so hard to break the glass ceiling in Silicon Valley

 

Several of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies have released a series of diversity reports revealing how few women held the companies’ top jobs — or jobs in general. Now a recent string of lawsuits is suggesting that the fix isn’t simply to recruit more women — what about the women who are already employed? Are they being held back from rising up?

That’s the key question in investing partner-turned-Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s ongoing lawsuit against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins, a highly-established venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. The jury in Pao’s case began hearing closing arguments this week, and will soon decide whether it was gender bias that prevented Pao from being promoted to a higher-ranking partner, or, as Kleiner Perkins’ lawyer argued, whether Pao is simply “[blaming] others for her own failures.”

Adding to the scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s treatment of women are two other high-profile gender discrimination lawsuits against Twitter and Facebook, both recently filed by former female employees.

A gender gap in the workplace, particularly in Silicon Valley, is old news. But Kleiner Perkins isn’t kind of Silicon Valley company we’re used to hearing about. By suing a venture capital firm, Pao raises a important point — the gender gap could be a problem at the firms that are often funding Valley companies, too. (In addressing this claim, Kleiner Perkins said in a trial brief last month it has “long been a supporter of women entrepreneurs.”)

According to a report by Babson College in 2013, gender bias reveals itself in the patterns of venture capital investments. (The study was sponsored by Ernst & Young and the Diana Project, both of which prioritize workforce diversity.) Upon analyzing these patterns, the study found that businesses with all-male leadership teams are four times as likely to receive venture capital funding as teams with even one woman.

That apparent gender bias might explain why only 3% of venture-funded businesses are led by women, according to Babson College’s report, which surveyed 6,517 of these businesses. About one-third of all U.S. businesses are led by women, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration:

 

Curiously, the percentage of female venture capital investors (11%) is almost equal to the percentage of female executives among Silicon Valley’s Top 150 companies (10.8%) — though this is merely a correlation. (These data points come respectively from the latest Venture Census and a 2014 report by Fenwick & West LLP, a global law firm with clients including Facebook and Google.)

Even if these two gender gaps are wholly unrelated, it’s still worth noting that Silicon Valley appears to have an especially pronounced gender diversity problem when compared to the S&P 100. The S&P 100 is a non-industry specific stock index comprised of companies with the 100 leading U.S. stocks, many of which are outside Silicon Valley:

 

So it’s an undeniable truth that Silicon Valley has a gender diversity problem. But the question of whether the gap has started to close is a bit trickier.

Take, for example, the following chart from Fenwick’s report. It shows the percentage of women in the highest-ranking positions in Valley’s top 150 companies (“SV 150″) between 1996 and 2014. By looking at the upward trends, you could say that gender diversity in Silicon Valley has improved:

But don’t jump to any conclusions. Once again, when you compare the SV 150 to the S&P 100 benchmark, gender diversity in the Valley appears to be problematic. Take a look at the following chart, which shows the top Valley companies had lower percentages of women than the S&P 100 in every single leadership position except President/COO and General Counsel in 2014:

There’s yet another caveat: If you examine only the very top Valley companies, the gender diversity problem is cast in a much better light. After all, Google just named a female CFO this week, while Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman are proof of change among tech titans.

The chart below shows gender diversity in the Valley’s top 15 companies (“SV15″), like Google and HP, has rapidly improved. Female representation was remarkably strong in a several positions in 2014, including President/COO and CFO. But other positions, like Chair, were still entirely male in 2014 — just like in 1996:

These mixed messages regarding the depth of Silicon Valley’s gender problem are surfacing on both sides of Pao’s trial. Kleiner Perkins’ lawyers, for example, argued that 20% of its partners are women. That’s much higher than the average of 6%, according to Babson College’s report, which surveyed 139 venture capital firms’ partners in 2013. Kleiner Perkins’ top ranking female partner, Mary Meeker, even testified against Pao, arguing the company promoted women based on their merits.

But Pao, too, had an arsenal of numbers at the ready. In addition to qualitative evidence of gender bias — like claims of all-male dinner parties — Pao’s legal team also cited the superior performance of investments made by the company’s female investors, including Pao. A female partner at Kleiner Perkins once reportedly even constructed a matrix comparing women’s and men’s investments to drive this point home.

The jury in Pao’s trial will soon put an end to these arguments — but the gender gap debate will surely continue outside the courtroom. Even if the jury sides with Kleiner Perkins, Pao’s closely watched trial remains a warning for the larger, male-dominated business industry to reevaluate the treatment of women in their companies. There’s a business incentive at play here, too: Companies with female leaders appear to be performing unusually well, according to a recent study of women-led companies by Karen Rubin, director of product management at the algorithm development site Quantopian. In her study, Rubin showed how the women-led Fortune 1000 companies — there are only 27 currently — posted greater cumulative returns than those of SPY, a tracker of the S&P 500 stock index, which Rubin used as a benchmark:

Women Leader Fortune 1000

In fact, it seems that these female-run companies have outperformed the male-dominated benchmark even more often since the financial crisis of 2008-09. That’s a gender gap to be proud of — and one that can’t be ignored.

TIME weather

Witness the Deadly Tornadoes That Hit Oklahoma

Tornadoes ripped through large portions of Oklahoma on Wednesday, marking the start of tornado season. The storm killed at least one person and left scores with damaged homes and tens of thousands of households with no power

TIME politics

Watch John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi Read Mean Tweets About Themselves

Tans were discussed

Members of Congress including House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came together to read mean tweets about themselves on video to promote Wednesday’s 2015 Radio & Television Correspondents Association Dinner.

Spoiler alert: Fake tans were discussed.

“Um… @NancyPelosi looks like a tub of orange sherbert right now on CSPAN,” Pelosi read one, before ad-libbing: “Was I standing too close to John Boehner?”

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 10.24.03 AM

The video then cuts to Boehner reading a tweet stating that he “Looks like an angry Oompa Loopa. I presume he bribes his constituents with promises of chocolate and Gobstoppers.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 10.04.44 AM

The twitterverse can be so cruel. Luckily Boehner was able to keep it together:

TIME HIV/AIDS

HIV Triggers a Public Health Emergency in Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.
Darron Cummings—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.

Intravenous drug use identified as the source of infections

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency Thursday in south Indiana’s Scott County, which has seen a large HIV flare-up from intravenous drug use.

At least 79 HIV confirmed cases have been tied to the southern Indiana country since January, up from fewer than five new cases in a typical year, and the state expects that figure to rise as officials scramble to alert up to 100 people linked to those newly infected. Intravenous drug use has been named as the primary infection source in every confirmed case.

“This is all-hands-on-deck. This is a very serious situation,” Pence said at a news conference on Thursday.

The emergency order will set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment. Pence also authorized a temporary needle-exchange program, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the governor had previously said he opposed the practice.

“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the Governor said in a statement. “ I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

Read next: This Map Shows the Deadliest Counties in the U.S.

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME weather

Oklahoma Governor Declares State of Emergency After Deadly Tornadoes

First responders work to free a man from a rubble pile after a round of severe weather hit a trailer park in Sand Springs, Okla., on March 25, 2015.
Matt Barnard—Tulsa World/AP First responders work to free a man from a rubble pile after a round of severe weather hit a trailer park in Sand Springs, Okla., on March 25, 2015.

Tornado season has arrived

Oklahoma’s governor declared a state of emergency for 25 counties Thursday, a day after severe weather whipped through large swathes of state, resulting in one death and widespread power outages.

Governor Mary Fallin announced the declaration in the city of Moore, after touring a stricken elementary school, according to NBC News. No students or staff were injured at the school, which was closed when the tornado hit.

“It’s hard to believe that two years later, we’re back at a Moore public school, surveying damage,” Fallin said. “I am very thankful that this school did not sustain damage during school hours.”

Outside Tulsa, a tornado cut through a mobile home park in the suburbs of Sand Springs Wednesday night, killing at least one person and injuring three others.

“Right now, rescue efforts are continuing and officers are aiding the injured and helping those who need immediate medical care,” Shannon Clark, with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN. “It’s very tough conditions right now — very touch and go. The conditions my people are working in right now are deplorable at best.”

Further south, near Oklahoma City, officials reported that another tornado touched down outside the town of Moore, overturning vehicles, uprooting trees and injuring at least three people. However, no deaths were reported in the area.

Thousands of Oklahoma residents were without power early Thursday as officials mobilized rescue efforts.

Read next: Doctors Can’t Explain Why People in Kazakhstan Are Falling Asleep For Days

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