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Episode 173

Shifting the Mental Health Story Within the World of Aviation (and Beyond)

It feels like I’m flying all the time while running my software company. Every month, I’m going somewhere to meet clients. 

It’s standard practice until, out of nowhere, I have my first anxiety attack.

These attacks become serious and start happening randomly on different days at different times of the day. Weeks and months go by, and every single time I step on the plane, an attack triggers.

While I’ve been flying on planes my entire life, I find myself having to take medication just to step on to an aircraft.

As I’m searching everywhere looking for answers to get to the bottom of what’s going on, I meet with a therapist, Dr. Keith.

He asks me a simple question:

“Kymberlee, do you think pilots have a fear of flying?”

Sounds like a preposterous question, right? So I respond: “Of course not!”

Then he advises me to ask the pilot on my next flight what their favorite thing is about flying. I do exactly that.

With my heart racing, I board my next flight and ask if I can say a quick hello to the pilot. As I’m having a conversation in the cockpit with this pilot, I quickly learn that his favorite part is the landings.

Suddenly, I go from having heart palpitations to laughing and smiling and learning so much about the craft of flying. In the months (and flights) that follow my perspective on flying changes so much that eventually I don’t even need to take the medication anymore.

His story changes my story.

Speaking of aviation and stories, my special guest, Reyné O’Shaughnessy, is a retired commercial airline pilot and captain with intimate knowledge of mental health. In this episode of the Storytelling School Podcast, you’ll hear about the importance of changing the story within the aviation world (and beyond) as it relates to mental health, as well as get answers to questions like:

How does the story within the aviation industry regarding changes in mental wellness policy need shifting? And why is it so important to share your stories publicly in the world?

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why the collective mental health story in aviation needs to change
  • How we can adopt a better story through shared responsibility
  • How to prevent your mental health from turning into a story of mental illness

Who is Reyné O'Shaughnessy?

Captain (ret.) Reyné O’Shaughnessy stands as a prominent figure within the aviation industry for her unwavering dedication to both pilots and the aviation industry. With a remarkable 35-year career as a commercial airline pilot, she has accumulated a vast reservoir of experience, expertise, and proficiency with flight time exceeding 10,000 hours on heavy jet aircraft.

Beyond the cockpit, Captain O’Shaughnessy has devoted over a decade to honing her skills as an aviation strategist, with a specific focus on health and mental wellness. Her dedication led her to become a certified practitioner in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) from Brown University. She founded Piloting 2 Wellbeing and co-founded The Aviation Health and Wellbeing Institute, and her holistic approach to aviation has solidified her position as a trailblazer and influencer within the industry.

In addition, Captain O’Shaughnessy is the author of the best-selling book, This Is Your Captain Speaking: What You Should Know About Your Pilot’s Mental Health. Her insights have been featured on reputable platforms such as Fox News, NBC News, CBS/KDKA, and AOPA, and she is a sought-after speaker at conferences worldwide.

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