KBTX - Health - Headlines

Mental Health Challenges Face Newly Freed Miners

By: KBTX Staff Email
By: KBTX Staff Email

Many of the miners look remarkably healthy, but they face a number of medical challenges. Their weakened immune systems could make them vulnerable to viruses and doctors will also look for signs of infection in the lungs.

Doctors will also check their kidney function and their overall blood
counts. They'll have to wear protective glasses for several days until their eyes can adjust to the light.

But the biggest challenge many of these men will face is not physical but mental. The experience could trigger post traumatic stress syndrome.

Psychologists will look for symptoms like nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety and claustrophobia. The men will meet with counselors who will have them verbally re-live the experience.

After two months underground, experts say some men may find it difficult to return to their normal life.

KBTX Medical Contributor Dr. Alan Xenakis spoke with News 3's Meredith Stancik over the phone Wednesday about the effects of being trapped for nearly 70 days.

Here are some of the questions they covered in his live interview.

Q: How likely Are Miners to Have Psychological Problems?

A: Extremely High. The most likely will be Symptoms of Post Traumatic Syndrome

Q: What is Post Traumatic Syndrome?

A: Post-traumatic stress is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. Usually involves the threat of death to oneself or to someone else overwhelming the individual's ability to cope.

Q: What Are Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

A: There three groups of symptoms that are required to assign the diagnosis of PTSD they are: 1.) recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma 2.) avoidance of remembrances of the trauma 3.) chronic physical signs of hyper-arousal

Q: What are some Examples of These Symptoms?

A: Re-experiencing of the trauma. For example, troublesome memories, flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events, recurring nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma. Avoidance to the point of having a phobia, or unrealistic fear, of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma and a general numbing of emotional responsiveness. Chronic physical signs of hyper-arousal, including sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hyper-vigilance to threat.

Q: How Permanent Will Symptoms Be?

A: If they're going to develop further, is something we need to wait and see. Many will be very difficult to take away. 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.

Q: What is a Likely Physical Symptom The Miners Will Face?

A: Their body clocks will likely have trouble readjusting after months in darkness. They will have trouble with the sleep-wake cycle, their Circadian rhythms will be off resembling extreme shift work where individuals experience GI symptoms similar to the FLU.

Q: Will the Miners Experience A Sense of Loss?

A: They will likely experience three senses of loss: 1.) During their ordeal the miners probably formed strong bonds with each other in order to survive. There will also be a sense of loss from the 'band of brothers' and the cohesiveness they experienced. 2.) Secondly, they will experience a sense of loss of time away from their families that they will feel will not be recoverable. 3.) Thirdly the miners may have trouble returning to normal life after the notoriety is gone, re-establishing their roles in the family after months of absence, and other problems returning to their regular lives


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