Student Mental Health Crisis: Perceptions of Collegiate Flight Students

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Hunter Clarke
Timm J. Bliss
Chad Depperschmidt


Student mental health is worsening. On top of the mental health stressors that come with being a college student, collegiate flight students are introduced to an entirely separate set of situations that can trigger mental health disorders. Because of these added stressors, poor mental health and suicide rates among flight students are becoming a more prominent issue today. The fear of being grounded by the FAA or having a medical certificate revoked contributes to the withholding of mental health symptoms of pilots. Not only does this create a concern for suicide and self-harm, but it also creates a safety concern regarding a pilot’s decision-making skills, putting themselves and others at risk. This study highlights collegiate flight students’ perceptions associated with mental health. The results of this survey are examined in the context of three research questions, which guided the researcher’s conclusions regarding collegiate flight student mental health. In summary, four significant findings emerged from the study: (1) mental health, including depression, anxiety, and/or stress, is a prominent issue among collegiate flight students; (2) being observed or evaluated by others, financial issues (flight costs), and FAA check rides/practical tests are a main source of depression, anxiety, and/or stress in collegiate flight students (3) collegiate flight students find underreporting of mental health concerns to be more beneficial to their career than seeking treatment, (4) students believe that change is necessary and beneficial, as it relates to the current FAA medical certification process. 

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