Was Andreas Lubitz Depressed? He Had A Torn-Up Sick Note And An "Ongoing Illness," Prosecutors Say
New evidence unearthed at the residence of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who deliberately crashed the A320 plane carrying 150 people Tuesday, reveals that Lubitz hid on ongoing medical issue from his employers. Prosecutors say the proof is in a torn-up doctor's note, which signed Lubitz off work on the day of the lethal crash. The new information is the latest fuel for a flurry of reports that Lubitz — who has no evident terrorism connection, but who prosecutors claim crashed on purpose — was suffering from extreme depression.
His mental illness is being touted as the reason for his actions, but mental health workers and activists are calling for prudence in the discourse surrounding his supposed depression.
Dusseldorf prosecutors revealed details about the torn-up note in a statement Friday.
Medical documents were found that indicate an ongoing illness and suitable medical treatment…The circumstance that torn-up current medical certificates — also pertaining to the day of the act — were found, supports, after preliminary examination, the assumption that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional circles.
“Investigations as well as the assessment of the medical treatment documents will take some days,” the prosecutors added. “As soon as reliable findings emerge, we will inform relatives and the public.” Significantly, they added that a suicide note or a statement of responsibility had not been found. The Houston Chronicle points out that sick notes, such as the one discovered in Lubitz’s home, are common in Germany. Notes from physicians excusing employees from work are issued even for minor illnesses, the publication says.
The proof of Lubitz’s concealment of his illness comes after the investigation — on the part of both the authorities and the international media scrum surrounding the Germanwings disaster — turns to examine the private and professional life of the 28-year-old Lubitz, a German national. “Most abnormal thing about Germanwings co-pilot was that he appeared so totally normal,” a Friday headline from the Independent reads. The story quotes acquaintances who remember Lubitz as “a very nice, fun and polite young man.”
But reports of Lubitz’s relationship troubles and bouts of depression that affected his training have dogged the picture of a happy young jogging and flying enthusiast. “I’m just speechless,” a member of a flying club that Lubitz belonged to told the Independent. “I don’t have any explanation for this. Knowing Andreas, this is just inconceivable for me…. He had a lot of friends; he wasn’t a loner.”
Germany’s Federal aviation Office had earlier revealed that Lubitz had a medical condition listed in his pilot’s medical certificate, according to the Wall Street Journal. The spokesperson couldn’t give information about the nature of the condition because of confidentiality issues, but he said that the certificate was updated annually. Lubitz’s record was last updated in July 2014.
As the discussion of the crash increasingly revolves around Lubitz’s mental state, groups are urging caution on the way his history of depression is characterized. According to the Guardian, the Royal College of Psychiatrists called the crash a “ghastly horror,” but urged that we “be careful not to rush judgements.” In a statement released Friday, president of the organization Professor Sir Simon Wessely wrote:
Should it be the case that one pilot had a history of depression, we must bear in mind that so do several million people in this country. It is also true that depression is usually treatable… We do not yet know what might be the lessons of the loss of the Airbus, but we caution against hasty decisions that might make it more, not less, difficult for people with depression to receive appropriate treatment. This will not help sufferers, families or the public.
The mental health group Mind has also warned against hasty judgements. The febrile reporting on the Germanwings crash and Lubitz’s mental health could risk further stigmatizing mental health issues, they warned. “Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate — but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness,” the group said. “There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.”
Despite offering the sick note as evidence that Lubitz was hiding his illness from Germanwings, prosecutors have not suggested any concrete link between the co-pilot's mental health and the outcome of his last flight. They did confirm that their investigations had not unearthed indications of any political or religious motivations to the incident.
Meanwhile, Germanwings (a budget off-shoot within the Lufthansa Group) announced that it was establishing a family assistance center in Marseille for the families of those killed in the Alpine crash. Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann announced in a statement that the group was fully committed to the emotional support of the affected individuals. The families of the pilots are staying in a separate location, according to the Mirror.
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