You've heard of Richard Russell by now. He was the 29-year-old man from Seattle who made national headlines earlier this month. On August 10, he single-handedly stole an airliner and took a joyride for over an hour, performing barrel-rolls and sightseeing in that time frame. Eventually, his plane went down on Ketron Island and, unfortunately, he didn't survive.
Upon seeing the news that day, I initially felt somewhat concerned, then indifferent. It was tragic undoubtedly, but I got to thinking: An estimated 16 out of 100,000 people commit suicide every day. What makes this guy so special?
Shortly after, I watched a Youtube video containing audio from his final moments. To my surprise, he sounded like a genuinely nice man. He was humorous while conversing with the air traffic controllers, who were cordial in return, while they were trying to convince him to land the plane. He was also aware of his mental state, telling the ATC, "Just a broken guy, got a few loose screws I guess. Never really knew it until now." He was apologetic throughout the audio recording as well, apologizing to his family for his actions and to one of the air traffic controllers. "Man, I'm sorry about this. I hope this doesn't ruin your day," he said.
After performing a few barrel rolls and enjoying the afternoon view from the cockpit, he crash-landed. Many news outlets were concerned with airport security, understandably. In our post-9/11 society, I'm sure uncertainty and anxiety filled peoples' minds as they watched two fighter jets tail the plane. He could have easily crashed the plane into a nearby concert, a building, or any other densely populated area if he felt so inclined. Still, he didn't do that.
He didn't plan to harm anyone, based on the audio. Richard Russell seemed like a laid-back dude, someone I would've enjoyed playing video-games with. He could've benefited from mental health treatment if he chose to. He was clearly troubled and perhaps couldn't handle the pressures of every-day life. Our society should stop taking mental health for granted, and implement mandatory mental health classes in school. When shit hits the fan and hard times come, they would be able to endure rather than check out early.
I don't know how many times I've heard someone claim they're "depressed" just because they failed a test or are "OCD" because they want something arranged a certain way. If you haven't found yourself crying your eyes red, tears streaming down your face for seemingly no reason on a consistent basis, then you don't know clinical depression. If you haven't found yourself bombarded with intrusive thoughts, because you're not sure if you locked the front door or not, then you don't know what it's like to live with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. People tend to use these medical terms lightly, and I haven't even touched on Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia!
Before I close, I want to point out that several people have to deal with mental disorders, such as the ones above, all while trying to go about their daily lives. It can get tough and lonely, especially if it seems like no one gives a damn. Maybe that's what drove Richard to his conclusion. Maybe he was struggling financially. I don't know. I do know that these types of incidents would lessen in our society if we show more compassion and understanding toward one another.