Mental stability is a term that defies simple definition. That should come as no surprise, given that the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifies approximately 300 different psychiatric diagnoses. Nor is the presence of mental stability, or mental illness, susceptible to a single objective test. Rather, mental health professionals apply their clinical expertise and a wide variety of objective measures to assess and diagnose individuals.

Against this backdrop and the recent news of a suicidal co-pilot accused by authorities of deliberately crashing a commercial aircraft with 150 passengers and crew on board, employers and employees alike must address day-to-day questions about the mental stability of their workplace colleagues. They must consider the range of inquiries and interventions that employers lawfully may make when an employee’s mental state is in question.

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