Almost a week after the devastating crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, which co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently flew into the French Alps while the plane's captain was locked out of the cockpit, new information continues to come to light. Initially, Lufthansa said that, to its knowledge, Lubitz was declared 100 percent competent to fly, and later The New York Times reported that he'd been treated for vision problems and an undisclosed illness. Now, French prosecutors have revealed that Lubitz was treated for "suicidal tendencies" in the years before the crash.
According to the prosecutors overseeing the investigation, Lubitz had undergone psychotherapy in the years prior to the crash, and the issue of these "suicidal tendencies" had come up in those sessions. "In the following period, and until recently, further doctor's visits took place, resulting in sick notes without any suicidal tendencies or aggression against others being recorded," German prosecutors said in a statement, according to the Times.
During the ten-minute descent into the French Alps, Lubitz said nothing and repeatedly ignored ground control's pleas to respond. The only sounds that could be heard, prosecutors said, were that of his breathing, the captain's repeated banging on the door, and the screams of passengers.
It's important to note here that Lubitz's tendency towards mental illness, if accurate, does not imply that all pilots who have suffered from mental illnesses should be, for example, barred from flying. What it does speak to, if anything, is the need for better regular mental health screenings for pilots — and, for that matter, improved mental health screenings across the board, inside the United States and outside of it. Conservative numbers estimate that almost 1 in 5 Americans each year suffer from some kind of mental illness.