Chilean miners situation 'similar to combat soldiers'

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Washington, Sept 1 (ANI): Psychologists at University of Southern California have compared the situation of the trapped Chilean miners to the experiences of soldiers on extended combat duty.

"(Astronauts, sailors and polar researchers) go into it voluntarily," Discovery News quoted psychologist and isolation researcher Lawrence Palinkas as saying.

"They know their isolation will come to an end. These miners are not sure about that," he added.

"When you boil it down to the psychological level, there is physical misery, separation (from families), uncertainty and ambiguity about the future," explained U.S. Army Col. Tom Kolditz of Westpoint.

However, the immense amount of research on soldiers in these situations could lead to strategies in order to help the miners.

The first thing that happens in such situations is appointment of a leader.

"It's called 'emergent leadership. In dangerous contexts an individual's rank or official standing has less to do with leadership than competence does," said Kolditz.

The next challenge is families.

"A big part of their stress is about their families," said Kolditz.

The miners are all poor, and the company that owns the mine is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. So the miners are worried about the safety and well-being of their loved ones, and are powerless to help.

The loss of the daily rhythms is another major hurdle, said Palinkas.

Cycles of light and dark stimulate hormones that regulate the human body. That can lead to insufficient sleep, increased fatigue, short-term memory loss, irritability and depression. These, in turn, can magnify even the smallest irritations, he said.

An additional pattern that could develop among the miners is distrust.

Among the simple things that can help the miners battle all the effects of isolation is a predictable schedule, said Kolditz.

There is also evidence from people who have worked in bunkers for long periods that circadian rhythms can be managed with good schedules, he added.

Overall, Kolditz is particularly optimistic about the miners' psychological prospects. The fact that the men supported each other when they broke down emotionally during recent videos is a very good sign, he said.

"What you are seeing is that they have really pulled together as a group," said Kolditz.

It's even likely, he said, that for some of the miners this whole disaster will be a life-changing experience that will lead to positive changes in their lives. (ANI)

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