News / Americas

Trapped Chilean Miners Face Psychological, Physical Challenges

Chilean officials say it could take months to rescue 33 miners who have already spent three weeks trapped more than 600-meters underground in the north of the country.  Reaching the miners and keeping them alive and healthy are top concerns.  But tending to the miners' psychological needs and emotional well-being is also critical.

In a demonstration of stoicism and defiance in the face of extreme hardship and peril, the trapped miners fervently sang Chile's national anthem after communications were established between their shelter and rescuers above.

Optimism counts


University College London senior lecturer in psychology James Thompson says maintaining a positive mental outlook is critical in times of extreme hardship and mortal peril.

"The psychological [aspect] is important, because it maintains all the things which improve one's probability of survival, even when those probabilities are very low," said Thompson.

Confined to a small chamber, the miners are enduring extremely close quarters with one another.  Chilean officials have reached out to a host of experts on cramped living conditions, from submarine officers to NASA experts, for advice.

Team spirit

Thompson says confinement in a crowded small space will tax the miners' psyches, but does provide one benefit, as well.

"The fact that they are in a group of knowledgeable persons is a great help.  Individuals can fail, and others can comfort them.  This is a cooperative group, and that helps mitigate some of the enormous damage of this dreadful event," Thompson said.

Chilean officials did not initially tell the miners exactly how long it could take to drill an escape tunnel.  

Thompson says the miners are undoubtedly aware that rescue will not be quick.  He says officials are right not to promise any overly-optimistic timeframes for rescue that would inevitably lead to disappointment.  Instead, they should stress all that is being done to secure the miners' rescue.

Staying occupied

Thompson adds the miners themselves should be made to feel that they play a role in their own fate, and should be given tasks to keep busy and remain engaged.

"You have got to get them involved.  You have to make them the rescue team downstairs, and then the discussions they will have and the feelings they will have will be much more positive," Thompson explained.

Maintaining miners' spirits may be a prime goal of the rescue operation, but Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told the trapped men that their fight for survival has provided an emotional lift to the entire nation.

The president told the miners they are enduring hell, but that their struggle has resurrected the nation's spirit and provided an example of courage for all to follow.

And that spirit and courage, above ground and below, faces a monumental challenge in the weeks and months to come.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Guatemalan President Resigns Over Corruption Scandal

Otto Perez Molina submitted his resignation at midnight after a judge issued an order to have him detained for questioning
More

Video US Men's Soccer Team Eyeing Matches Against Peru, Brazil

The team is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing result in the Gold Cup, when Jamaica upset the US 2-1 in the semifinals
More

Video Scientists Predict Wet Winter in Drought-stricken US West

Strong El Nino could bring relief to dry areas, but punishing droughts to other regions around the globe
More

Guatemala Congress Opens Door for Prosecution of President

With 132 of 158 lawmakers approving a measure to strip immunity, prosecutors now can file criminal charges against Perez Molina just like any other citizen
More

Rio Olympics Official: Water Will Be Clean for Games

Recent report says waters so contaminated with bacteria and viruses from human sewage that athletes could become ill
More

UN: El Nino Could Be Among Strongest on Record

Meteorologists say climate models suggest water temperatures in the tropical Pacific are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius above average
More