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article imageChilean miners ordeal nears an end Special

By Jane Fazackarley     Oct 12, 2010 in World
It is estimated that 2,000 journalists are camped outside the San Jose mine as the time nears for the Chilean miners to be rescued, one by one, from the mine they have been trapped in since August.
Other news teams have set up base near to a hospital in Copiapo where two wards have been prepared ready for their arrival, the Daily Mail report.
Luis Urzua, the foreman, is thought likely to be the last one out. He has been given credit for helping the men to stay alive by rationing food during the first 17 days of their ordeal and has told the Guardian '"he was humbled by the men's ability to stay united."
President Sebastian Pinera is reported to be with families at the makeshift village close to the mine which has been called "Camp Hope".
Once they leave the mine in which they have been imprisoned for the last few months their life's will have changed and experts are already on the scene to give the men the psychological support that they will need.
I interviewed Psychologist Dr Dan Beach by email. I asked him:
Their life's will change completely after their rescue. They'll be in the public eye and there is already talk of offers for their stories. This will all take some adjusting to?
"Life will never be the same for the miners. Each man will always be associated with an occurrence that captured the attention of the world. This has been a perfect storm of calamities that has included the entrapment of 33 men in a mine 700 meters below the surface, 90 degree temperatures with equally high humidity, initial fear of dying in the mine, and a prolonged period of rescue. The immediate aftermath of this episode has the potential for a chaotic turmoil of family and medical concerns, media frenzy, legal battles, and a rush of opportunists hoping to benefit financially from this event. The most astounding part of this event will be the eventual safe rescue of all 33 miners."
And family life will have changed for some of them. One of the miners has yet to be introduced to his new baby. Should the families be given specific support to help them?
"Family relationships will be renewed, yet it will be difficult for the families to really understand the emotional price that the miners have paid, and correspondingly the miners will have a hard time identifying with the anguish experienced at the surface by families and friends. This is quite similar to the sense of isolation that is often felt by returning military personnel who have experienced brutal combat conditions. Mental health professionals should be involved not only with the miners, but also with their families for a period of at least six months."
They'll need ongoing help to deal with the situation?
"Psychological debriefing will be important for their long-term mental health. This includes talking about their feelings including: anger, anxiety and frustration. Acknowledging to the miners that their feelings are normal, and that it will take time to readjust to normal conditions will be very important. At first they will want to tell their stories to whomever they might meet. Over time they will become more judicious in whom they confide. This will show that they are beginning to reintegrate emotionally. A crisis team will need to evaluate each man individually to determine the degree of emotional distress he might be experiencing, and then plan for each man accordingly."
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a real possibility for some of the miners. About 50% of PTSD cases improve significantly in six months. The rest need help for longer periods. A less serious disorder can occur called Acute Stress Disorder. This usually begins within 4 weeks and lasts less than one month. There are similar symptoms to PTSD, but less severe and it resolves itself rather quickly. The symptoms of both disorders include: re-experiencing the events in dreams or a waking state, avoidance of human contact, reduced emotional responsiveness to events and to people, and increased feelings of tension, anxiety and guilt. How well the authorities plan for the period immediately following the rescue will play a large part in how well many of the miners deal with these significant stresses."
"Their pre-disaster personality characteristics will play a large role in how well they handle this crisis. These include: pre-existing levels of anxiety, previous traumatic life experiences, and whether they possess positive or negative attitudes about life in general. Consequently, each miner will need to be evaluated individually and a plan for their continued emotional well-being will need to be developed."
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