Everyone thinks being a flight attendant is a glamorous life full of travel and adventure but there’s a darker side that a lot of people are unaware of. A dark side that has driven too many fellow flight attendants to earn their permanent wings.
Mental health is a big issue facing our society today. Every month you can find an article about a kid who took their own life due to bullying, a veteran who came home different and lost the battle going on in their mind, or a LBGTQ person who let other’s ignorance get the best of them. The article you won’t find will be the epidemic that is plaguing our flight community.
A lot of people don’t realize how lonely our jobs actually are. Being a flight attendant we are always around people but always alone. It’s a weird caveat that makes this one of the loneliest jobs you can have. With all of the travel, time zone changes, scheduling inconsistency, and living life out of a suitcase we can feel so alone in such a busy world. It is not like a normal 9 – 5 job where we work with the same colleagues on a regular basis. We work with a crew and then weeks, months, or years can go by before you work with someone on that crew again, if at all. As humans we are wired to be social creatures. Human interaction, even if it is for a short period of time, is a basic human need and and essential for our psychological health.
Flight attendants get verbally abused on a regular basis by complete strangers. Sometimes the first interaction you have with a passenger is them screaming at you for sometime you didn’t even do. It is the flight attendant’s fault there is weather and the flight is delayed. It is the flight attendant’s fault they don’t know the mechanics of the aircraft to fix a part that is broken. It is the flight attendant’s fault they got stuck in L.A. traffic and missed their original flight. There is only so much a person can take mentally and emotionally before it starts to effect their health and can lead to a break.
Like other first responders, flight attendants can suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Giving chest compressions to a passenger who is suffering from a heart attack is not an every day occurrence and not experienced by majority of the public during their lifespan. We are trained in handling these types of situations but there is nothing that can prepare you for having a passenger die on your flight. The same happens with an evacuation. All flight attendants are trained to evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds or less and can be traumatic no matter how many simulations you practice. The real thing never compares to the real stress of that situation.
A big struggle with our lifestyle is not having others understand it. From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it. The things that cause flight attendant’s stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to self-destructive behaviors like alcoholism and drug addition.
The next time you board your flight just remember your flight attendant may be smiling on the outside but behind that smile he or she could be hiding pain.