Phobia for air travel soars after MH370 and MH17 disasters

Phobia for air travel soars after MH370 and MH17 disasters

PETALING JAYA - Flight phobia is on the rise in the country following a spate of air disasters.

Malaysian Mental Health Asso­ciation president Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said he had treated more patients who confessed to a fear for flying following the MH370 and MH17 tragedies. He declined to reveal the numbers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, air travel suffered badly worldwide after the Sept 11 attacks with US Transportation Department records showing that the number of air passengers from October to December that year fell by 20 per cent, 17 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.

Last Thursday, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun offered counselling services to MAS caregivers and staff, saying that many of them were traumatised by the two tragedies.

Dr Andrew, who has a special interest in aviation psychiatry, said in an interview that his patients included cabin crew.

"Many could be suffering in silence," he pointed out. "They are afraid to admit that they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, fearing that they might be phased out if their work requires them to travel."

Post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, was easily treatable with short-term medication and cognitive behavioural therapy, which had been proven to be effective.

"It is a difficult situation for people who need to travel to admit that they are having sleeping disorders and nightmares, being hypervigilant and having palpitation," he said.

"This could lead to irritability, depression and possibly suicide if it is severe."

Dr Andrew urged such people to seek help. "It could be overcome between six months and a year."

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