What happens when mental illness is misinterpreted by the general public? As one woman recently discovered, it makes for a difficult time on an airplane.
Ann-Marie Finch, a 31-year-old with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), attempted to leave Murcia Airport in Spain aboard a plane on August 22, but was stopped on the tarmac. Finch had been bitten by mosquitoes while waiting for the plane to depart, triggering her condition. She became distressed and was promptly removed from the flight “for safety reasons” by Ryanair (“Ryanair ‘refused to fly’ woman with mental health condition,” 2017).
“When I’m anxious I can’t function and it can affect my mobility and the way I talk,” Finch told the BBC. “I was scared like a child and can’t function and can’t cope. I don’t want to have to rely on people all my life. Because of that I can’t fly alone now.”
The airline later issued a statement, reiterating that Finch had become “disruptive” before the plane took off.
“Overnight hotel accommodation was provided and the passenger was re-accommodated on to the next available flight, the following day,” the airline told the BBC. “While we regret any inconvenience caused, the safety of our customers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority.”
Finch’s mother, Sandy, claimed that her daughter simply wanted to be safe on her flight.
“She’s not a threat or a danger to anyone,” she told the BBC. “It’s appalling what they’ve done to her confidence.”
What is DID?
Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, only affects about 1 percent of the population – but as seen in Finch’s case, this can be a primary reason why it is commonly misunderstood and misinterpreted by the general public (“ Dissociative Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness ,” n.d.).
Individuals with DID may experience significant memory loss, a sense of detachment from their emotions, a lack of self-identity, and mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. In Finch’s case, she became anxious after being triggered on board the flight.
Those living with DID, such as Finch, are not necessarily dangerous because of their condition, even when triggered. Overall, the condition can be managed in a number of ways so that patients can operate in “normal” settings, such as public spaces. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one option, in addition to medication to assist with symptoms, such as depression (Tracy, 2017).
Of course, a greater understanding of these types of mental illnesses over time can reduce the stigma. Until then, these solutions can help individuals looking to manage the condition.