Make The Connection: A Q&A on mental health with “Sully” Sullenberger

On Jan. 15, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a commercial airline pilot of 30 years, piloted an emergency landing on the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew on board survived.

Sullenberger is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a fighter pilot from 1973 to 1980. After that water landing, he experienced symptoms of PTSD that kept him up at night. He credits the crisis response professionals for helping him get on a path to recovery.

During May’s Mental Health Month, VA’s Make the Connection website spoke with Sullenberger about his experience with mental health challenges, his work in the Veteran community, and what he hopes others take from his story.

Make the ConnectionIn recognition of Mental Health Month, we are highlighting how mental health can mean different things to different people — and the inspiring potential for positive outcomes that treatment can support. What does mental health mean to you?

Capt. Sullenberger: To me it means thinking and feeling in ways that are more positive than negative and that enable you to live your life connected to loved ones and the world.

Make the Connection: You’ve spoken about experiencing symptoms of PTSD following the emergency landing of Flight 1549. What do you wish more people understood about PTSD?

Capt. Sullenberger: You aren’t the only one who feels or has felt this way, and that it is normal to feel this way. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human, and it’s the way our brains protect us.

Make the Connection: What