Are Airports Behind The Times When It Comes To Mental Health Awareness?
Posted by MiaMantri
25th Jan 2014

Over the last ten years or so there have been a lot of initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues in society and various organisations and institutions like hospitals, workplaces, universities, colleges, schools and even the police and prisons. How effective they have been is a matter of debate, personally I think though they may have had some effect we still have a long way to go. However, there is one area in which I think there is no awareness or understanding of mental health issues - airports.

Since 9/11 there has been an increasing amount of security at airports, most of which is very invasive. There is a lot of debate on how necessary, proportionate and effective the nature of the measures are. But what few people have thought about is how invasive security measures might affect passengers with mental health issues. Marcia Purse speaks about this in her blog linked here

There are many groups of people who might have genuine difficulty negotiating the current security measures at airports, which involve body scanning and intrusive pat downs among other things. People with mental health issues, autism, OCD, body issues, people who have been raped or sexually abused all might find the procedures carried out at airports traumatic. But the policies at airports focus all on security but not at all on the mental wellbeing of passengers. This lack of understanding of mental health issues has resulted in the loss of life before now. In December 2005 at Miami International Airport, a man exhibiting behaviour that caused concern to onlookers was shot dead by skymarshals while his partner was trying to explain that he had mental health problems. He was found to have bi-polar disorder and had not been taking his medication. In August 2006 a plane was escorted down by fighter jets when a mentally ill woman caused a disturbance on board.

I have written a blog about childhood experiences which I felt sexually violated by, which I link here and can imagine there will be other people like myself who feel too afraid to travel or people who have been affected by the current measures at airports. I am disappointed that mental health organisations and organisations representing vulnerable groups have not spoken out on this issue yet and would be interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in helping raise awareness of this issue.

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