Since last Tuesday when co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 killed 150 people in one fell swoop I’ve heard and read the words suicide and depression more than I can count. What has not been used is the word murder, which is exactly what Andreas Lubitz committed. He murdered 150 people in cold blood. He ultimately killed himself as well, but does that mean we call this crime a suicide? When there’s a shooting at a mall, or a school shooting where the perpetrator kills people and then themselves, do we call this a suicide?
I am a mental health professional in private practice and besides serving as a witness, mirror and counselor to my clients, I spend a lot of time researching crime and sociopathic behavior. What I know is that suicide and murder are two different things, and require two types of thought processes and delusion. Not only was Andreas Lubitz willing to take his own life, which is extreme and sad no doubt, he was for some unknown reason willing to take the lives of 150 people – that’s a statement of power, anger, rage and control. That is an external expression of violence, not only against total strangers but passengers that he was responsible for as a co-pilot of that airplane. He sat in total silence while those passengers screamed, knowing their lives were about to end.
By looking at this man as a victim of depression or any other mental illness he loses accountability. He becomes someone doctors or therapist failed or let slip through, someone that shouldn’t have been allowed to fly and that’s why this happened, and his actions become less grotesque. The reality is that he shouldn’t have killed 150 people, regardless of depression, suicidal ideation or otherwise.
I don’t know why he did what he did; ultimately if we somehow find out it won’t change anything. It won’t give us insight that will make sense of this and logically be able to stop it in the future. There will not be a regulation now put in place that will prevent this type of tragedy from happening despite trying. If someone like him decides to do it – lock on the door, two people in the cockpit, exposing all health related records -or not it will happen in one tragic way or another. As a culture, we focus on what we can do to prevent the past from happening again, all too much – our own delusions of control. I’m not saying we should just put our hands up and look for no preventative measures. Could this have been prevented? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. It’s terrible and sad and incomprehensible and I cannot imagine what the friends, families, co-workers and neighbors of the victims are going through. Mass murder is hard to predict and even harder to stop. What we can do now at the very least is hold him responsible as much as we can by calling his action what it was, a crime against others; murder.