Nick Clegg on Germanwings plane crash: People with mental health problems should not be stopped from doing certain jobs

The Deputy PM's comments come amid an investigation into the life of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who is believed to have deliberately crashed

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The Independent Online

Nick Clegg has said there should be no “blanket rules” preventing people from undertaking certain roles of employment because they have a history of mental health problems.

Speaking to reporters aboard the Liberal Democrats campaign battle bus, the Deputy Prime Minister made reference to Germanwings crash pilot Andreas Lubitz, who investigators believe suffered from suicidal tendencies before he deliberately caused the disaster.

“I think it's very important that we don't, however understandable in this context, allow what is said about one individual to shape or colour the way in which we regard people who go through episodes of mental health problems,” he said.

“That's been one of the great problems, the stigma around mental health, which is because people are either frightened or embarrassed about mental health problems they tend to keep their distance from people who have had mental health problems, when it happens to so many individuals.

“We certainly don't want to see people with mental health problems deliberately or otherwise shut out of work. That would be consigning a lot of people to a cycle of despair, which would be wholly unfair and wholly unjust.”

 

Questioned over whether he felt pilots who have struggled with mental ill health in the past specifically should not be allowed to fly as a result, Clegg responded: “It's for employers in different walks of life to decide what requirements they ask of people who they employ and different jobs have different levels of physical and mental qualification attached to them.

“But I dont think, as a blanket rule, the fact that someone has had mental health problems should automatically disqualify them from certain jobs. That would be not treating people as individuals, instead treating people in an indiscriminately broad-brush way.”

He added that the umbrella of mental health presents “such a huge category” of different problems, ranging from “episodes of psychosis” to “stress and anxiety”, that it would be inappropriate to dismiss them all. 

“A bipolar condition is quite different to an eating disorder as a teenager.

“My plea would be let's treat people like individual human beings who have individual and specific physical health problems.

“What I hope we can do is, over time as a society, talk with the same level of sophistication about different mental health problems as we do about different physical health problems.”

His remarks come amid speculation that Clegg could be in real danger of losing his Sheffield Hallam seat.

He trails Labour by two points in his constituency, according to the latest survey of marginal constituencies by pollster Lord Ashcroft.

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