Chile Miners Mental Well Being Will Suffer

Advertisement

Psychology experts believe the Chilean miners will eventually suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can include having nightmares and easily becoming irritable. The symptoms could last for months. Dr. Albert Holland, a NASA psychologist who traveled to Chile last month. "I'm sure the physicians down there are looking for any signs of anxiety reactions or depression or even PTSD," Holland said.

Many experts feel that Chilean miners mental well being will suffer a great deal. Dr. Michael Duncan, chief medical officer and leader of the NASA team that went to Chile, described the ways the miners may rely on each other as they recuperate.” They will want to stay as close as they can and in fact, we are hearing that on the media reports from the mine site that the miners who have been rescued want to stay until all the miners are on the surface," Duncan noted. "So they still have that cohesive bond of this experience."

Advertisement

Dr. George S. Everly Jr., an associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a faculty member at the Center for Public Health Preparedness in the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Everly has studied disaster medicine for 30 years. He said there are two issues – the immediate problems that can surface after rescue, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and the longer-term problems associated with the let down the miners may feel when the euphoria and media attention fade.

Everly said 25 percent of people involved in large disaster situations develop post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. “It’s not just exposure, but something else,” he said. “That something else is the Holy Grail of the [disaster mental health] field. We don’t know exactly what it is. But it’s when the glue that holds our world together for us is gone; when our belief system is violated.”

And, down the road, 18 months or 2 years, there could be more problems. The miners could have trouble with the inevitable let down from the event. The euphoria of being rescued will be gone. The media, interviews, book deals will be over. “Some people literally define their existence by one exposure,” he said. “’I’m a survivor of the Titanic.’

The key will be watching for signs of trouble, early on or down the road. Just as family and friends of those returning from combat, the miners’ community will need to be on the lookout for such behavior as irritability and aggressiveness or withdrawal. And they will need to do it for a long time. The government has promised 6 months; however that is simply a drop in the bucket for these miners who are now heroes.

Advertisement