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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Tutu Lends Support to Age Campaign

Help Age International has launched Action 2015 campaign
More

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

US, Cuba Talks Resume With Focus on Embassies

Fourth round of talks aimed at overcoming obstacles to opening embassies in each other's capitals and re-establishing diplomatic ties
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More

Chinese Premier Visits South America

Brazil is the first stop on Chinese premier Li’s tour of Latin America
More

2 US Senators Would Require Cuba to Address Claims

Republican Senators Rubio, Vitter say Cuba needs to address up to $8 billion in outstanding claims by US citizens, businesses for properties confiscated by Castros before trade, travel embargoes lifted
More