Rescued Miners May Be Trapped by Psychological Issues


Chilean Miners: Psychology of Having Survived

"Their ability to recover also depends on if they have family support around them," said Foa. "I think these people will get a lot of support from families and the entire population of Chile and especially from the people in their hometown."

She added that relationships in the family may be difficult at first as the men attempt to adjust.

"It's possible to have strained family relationships. One symptom of PTSD is irritability and a feeling of alienation from other people, because other people did not go through the same experience they did, and can't possibly really understand what they went through."

The experts also say the miners may have trouble returning to normal life after the notoriety is gone, re-establishing their roles in the family after months of absence, and other problems returning to their regular lives.

Will They Return to the Mines?

One miner's wife said she doubts that her husband will return to work in the mines. Other miners may feel the same way.

"There may be a fear of going back to work," said Foa. "There's a very realistic risk of working in the mines. Events like this one don't happen every day, but the risk is there."

But Al Holland, a senior operational psychologist from NASA who's on the team advising Chilean officials on the rescue effort, said he doesn't think the miners will feel that way, although it is possible that some will.

"There's no reason to expect there will be any problems with work. They were trapped where they work, which is different from being trapped in an unusual situation," said Holland.

Holland said Chilean officials are giving miners access to counseling for six months so they can deal with their issues. But Foa said counseling might not be enough.

"We don't have evidence that counseling is helpful for PTSD, but there are treatments that are effective. We have treatments that are very helpful to reduce the probability of getting chronic PTSD."

But experts are optimistic the miners can recover.

"The majority of them are likely to recover," said Foa. "Recovery doesn't mean they will forget completely, because they won't, but recovery means they will go back to functioning where they won't have symptoms severe enough to cause major distress and will get readjusted to daily life."

Shaw agreed: "We should never underestimate the ability to recover from trauma."

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