Entries in Chilean Miners (2)


Rescued Miners May Be Trapped by Psychological Issues

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COPIAPO, Chile) -- Amid cheers, celebration and a throng of loved ones, officials and media, the 33 Chilean miners emerged, one by one, from the ground.

But once the jubilation is over, experts say the men may have to confront a number of medical and psychological issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The probability they will have PTSD symptoms is very high," said Edna Foa, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "How permanent those symptoms are, or if they're going to develop further, is something we need to wait and see."

After surviving more than two months trapped underground and facing tremendous uncertainty, including the prospect that they could have died, experts say the miners may now suffer a number of symptoms related to PTSD and other psychological issues.  How they respond to them depends on each miner's individual psyche as well as the amount of support they get from mental health professionals, their families and the community.

"Some may have depression, anxiety or phobic symptoms, some may socially withdraw, some may become hypervigilant and some may have traumatic reminders of the event," said Dr. Jon Shaw, professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

For those that do suffer from PTSD, those symptoms will emerge later, usually within a few weeks.

"There may be severe psychological distress, including cognitive symptoms such as loss, a sense of confusion, concentration problems, a sense of disorientation, nightmares, dreams, a loss of appetite," said Neal Walker, a clinical psychologist with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a U.S. government agency. "There may also be behavioral symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, they may cry easily, and some men will try to make fun of their experience -- 'gallows humor,'" said Walker.

Shaw said their body clocks will likely have trouble readjusting after months in darkness.  "They will have trouble with the sleep-wake cycle, their Circadian rhythms," he said.

A spokesman for the hospital in Copiapo, where some of the miners are being treated for a number of heath conditions, said the miners haven't slept yet because they are overjoyed and want to spend time with their families.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Chilean Miners May Not Be Safe on Surface

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COPIAPO, Chile) -- It has been more than two months of darkness for the 33 miners, trapped more than 2,000 feet below the earth in Chile, and Tuesday night the operations commenced to hoist these miners to safety.  But while the rescue of the miners is a light at the end of the tunnel in every sense of the phrase, the ordeal may not be over just yet.  Doctors are prepared to treat a host of health conditions caused by their entrapment, from skin infections to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medical professionals said the dark, dank environment of the mine is a breeding ground for many physical ailments.

Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the Respiratory Care Department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, said the poor air quality may cause miners to suffer from pulmonary issues, including a depressed immune system, partially collapsed lungs from shallow breathing and asthma due to mold and dust inhalation.  And, even with the lack of fresh air, the miners were given the go-ahead to smoke while trapped.

"I would expect respiratory infections in this weakened state," said Schachter.

Doctors said fungal infections like ringworm, athlete's foot and jock itch are also likely.  These infections are not dangerous, but are often very uncomfortable. Treatments are available for the miners once they surface, but it can take months to be fungus-free.

Plus, dental hygiene, an issue that is not usually a primary concern in traumatic events, could be a looming issue.  The miners were not able to brush their teeth for the first 17 days, causing some to develop the gum disease gingivitis.  Smoking, diabetes, poor nutrition, and hormonal changes all exacerbate the risk.  Many of the miners have been smoking, and one is diabetic.  Many of their hormone levels are likely to have changed due to the stresses of being trapped.

Many mental health professionals have also said a major psychiatric concern is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, an anxiety disorder sometimes brought on by traumatic events such as natural disasters, accidents, personal assaults or military combat.  Symptoms include flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts, difficulty sleeping and emotional numbness.

"There may also be depression or guilt reactions to how they reacted while being confined and how people treated each other," said Dr. Howard Zonana, professor of psychiatry at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. "Not everyone reacts in a fashion they are proud of when facing what must have seemed like imminent death."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio