What’s the issue?
In any community, a proportion of people use alcohol or other drugs in a way that is unsafe. The nature of alcohol and drug problems is such that an individual may not fully realise the implications of their use. In aviation this can have significant consequences, but if a problem is identified early and managed well, safety can be maintained without jeopardy to employment.
a radio talkback show on alcohol problems, I rang, but hung up, not ready
to face it. Some time later, after tripping over some alcohol fueled potholes in the road, a gentle
intervention led me along a different path, a sober path. If I had kept going the way I was,
those potholes were turning into a bottomless pit.
With education, great support and following some basic guidelines for life,
the road stays smooth. I thought this program was about stopping drinking, but
instead I found it's a way to start living."
"The thought occurred to me as I was sitting in the carpark of Super Liquor
Man at 8.55am on Saturday morning, waiting for it to open at 9.00am,
that this wasn't normal behaviour. I was however at that point past caring,
I knew deep down that I had crossed the line into alcoholism, but alcohol had become
my saviour, it was the self-prescribed medication that I used to block out the pain
of the world. I knew the path I was going down was unsustainable, I viewed my situation
as a detached third person,interested to see how it would end, because I didn't have a clue".
"I remember looking down at the countryside disappearing behind the wing of the aeroplane
on my way down to rehab wondering how I had ended up in the situation I was in.
Yet I knew I was headed in the right direction, I was being shown a way out of the morass
my life had become. Agreeing to go to rehab was probably the best decision
I have ever made in my life. I have faced many challenges in sobriety, but
I have never looked back. I was extremely lucky that I had kind caring people
around me who could see what was happening to me and chose to
intervene. My life is now free from the tyranny of alcoholism, and all I have to do
is one simple thing, not take the first drink" .
What is HIMS?
HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) is a programme for members of the aviation community, aimed at helping anyone whose use of alcohol or other drugs is of concern. A cornerstone of HIMS is the understanding that substance dependence is a treatable medical condition. HIMS is modelled on well-established overseas programmes which have assisted thousands of pilots in getting back to work. It is an industry-wide effort in which employers, unions and the CAA work together to preserve careers and further flight safety.
The following key organisations within the New Zealand aviation sector have offered their backing for the HIMS approach to the handling of substance use disorders, and support for the objectives, guiding principles and processes of the HIMS programme:
Air New Zealand
Airways Corporation of New Zealand
Royal New Zealand Air Force
New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association
Federation of Air New Zealand Pilots
Virgin Australia NZ
In addition, the Civil Aviation Authority supports the safety outcomes of the programme and the Director of Civil Aviation has provided a letter of endorsement.
Is it really an illness?
The past view that it was simply a moral failing or poor will-power, is not supported by science. Substance dependence has been classified as an illness for decades, and there is a large body of genetic and medical evidence to support this view.
What are the warning signs regarding alcohol use?
They relate to consequences of drinking – is the use of alcohol affecting the person’s health, their relationships, causing problems at work or with the law? Do they do things after drinking which they would normally regard as unacceptable behaviour? Do they forget large aspects of what they did when drinking? Are others challenging them about their drinking, and do they resent those challenges?
What about other drugs?
Alcohol is the favourite mind-altering drug in our society, and the one with the greatest overall impact on aviation safety. But the warning signs referred to above are similar for other drugs, and relate to the consequences of using the drug. There is a wide range of additional risks associated with other recreational drugs.
How does HIMS work?
HIMS provides a network of people with experience in dealing with substance use issues, who offer advice and assistance to anyone with concerns. The objective is to ensure that an individual with a problem is assisted in seeking help from appropriate professionals, and then when the problem is well controlled, assisted in getting back to work and in staying well.
What do I do if I have concerns?
If you have a concern about yourself, or someone you know, or you simply would like to make a confidential enquiry, then contact a member of the HIMS NZ Support Team by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting one of the Team below. The HIMS Support Team are experienced aviation professionals who have had training under the US HIMS programme.
Simon Nicholson 021 747 300
Dave Wake 021 025 70594
Chris Mehlhopt 0274 505 015