PEER SUPPORT: overview

Following the Germanwings plane crash, as already mentioned, it was necessary for the European Authority for Aviation Safety (EASA) to implement and strengthen the rules regarding the mental health of the crews.


July, 2018

The European Regulation (EU) referred to in point 2 was issued:

The European Aviation Safety Agency («the Agency») identified a number of safety risks and made a number of recommendations to mitigate those risks. The implementation of some of these recommendations requires regulatory changes with regard to the psychological assessment of flight crew before embarking on scheduled flights, the implementation of a flight crew support programme, the performance by Member States of random alcohol tests on driver and cabin crew members and the performance by commercial aircraft operators of systematic tests for the detection of psychoactive substances in flight crew members and cabin.


March, the 4th 2018

In the medical regulations of the National Agency for Civil Aviation is issued the circular:

“Health organisation and medical certificates of fitness for obtaining aircraft licences and certificates”, of which:

In the definition by EASA of specific requirements for the implementation of the principles and procedures of peer support programs (Peer Support Program).


ENAC promotes and monitors, through the publication of appropriate regulatory instruments (circulars and guidance material), the activation of these programmes by air operators and flight assistance service providers.This in order to assist and guide flight staff and air traffic controller towards an appropriate support and aid programme following significant events, as a result of which there are doubts about the safety of professional performance or the mental health of the subject. For the purposes of this paragraph, the following areas of intervention relating to problems with a potential significant impact on the professional performance of the individual shall be considered as important:

a) use and abuse of alcohol, psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs


b) mental/emotional stress factors arising from daily life; c) possible trauma resulting from critical accidents.



Understanding the context in which seafarers operate is crucial.

Among the major causes:

  • psychosocial stressors,
  • fatigue understood as an inability to complete one’s task dictated in turn by psychophysical and environmental factors,
  • crises underlined by working conditions.

Definition of the Peer support program

The PEER support program can be defined as follows:

“Peer support in mental health care may be defined as “offering and receiving help, based on shared understanding, respect and Mutual empowerment between people in similar situations” (Mead et al., 2001)

The effectiveness of helping by feeling protected and helped each other, however, has significant consequences in terms of strengthening self-esteem, confidence and the ability to feel part of a working community.

The Peer has the obligation of active listening remaining in close contact with the Psychologist who will ensure the safety of the interventions and will take care of the case if the peer is no longer able to manage it.

Selecting the PEER

The peer offers himself/herself voluntarily, but the selection process includes a number of indicative points to be observed when choosing a peer.

The aspects to be observed range from confidentiality to empathy, from non-judgement to issues such as team working.

The role of the Psychologist

The figure of the psychologist is fundamental in the training of peers as a support and back-up for the peers themselves, avoiding overload of emotions and stress and intervening when the role of the peer is not enough.

This implies an accurate study of the working environment and of the stress factors that can affect psychophysical well-being and the proper functioning of the structure.