The Chilean miners: getting psychologists, and us, talking

Vince Cable and this tuition fees malarkey will probably get a mention in one of your conversations today. You might have a chat about Katie and Wagner from X Factor too. But the subject on most of our lips? The Chilean miners, of course.

Having spent 69 days underground, today is D-Day, the day they get out. And they’re everywhere. Across the world, rolling news channels are full with reports from the mine, newspapers are updating online stories by the minute, and Twitter is awash with chat of the rescue (at last glance it was at the top of the trend list worldwide).

 

Vince Cable and this tuition fees malarkey will probably get a mention in one of your conversations today. You might have a chat about Katie and Wagner from X Factor too. But the subject on most of our lips? The Chilean miners, of course.

Having spent 69 days underground, today is D-Day, the day they get out. And they’re everywhere. Across the world, rolling news channels are full with reports from the mine, newspapers are updating online stories by the minute, and Twitter is awash with chat of the rescue (at last glance it was at the top of the trend list worldwide).

Psychologists are everywhere too, and have been since the mine collapsed on August 5. Dr Jennifer Wild, a clinical psychologist at King's College in London talked to the Daily Mail. Dr James Thompson, a senior psychology lecturer at University College London, went to the BBC (he made a video too). Over in Australia, ABC gotProfessor Bryant, the director of the Traumatic Stress Unit at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, and Sky News have psychologist Marc Hekster. And, of course, the miners’ chief psychologist Alberto Iturra has been quoted by everyone.

They are all talking to the same line: post-rescue is going to be a very strange time for the miners. Some will flourish, becoming stronger, better, more positive people (a state called ‘post-traumatic growth’, which we ran a feature on in last month’s magazine). Others won’t.

Dr James Thompson explained to the BBC: ‘It could be that the memories of the event still cause them sleepless nights, that their sleep is disturbed, that they find themselves thinking of the event very, very frequently. They will find to their surprise that even though they are out of the mine, they will feel that physically they are still in it. If they've had a feeling of the probability of dying…there will be an enormous amount of emotional tension.’

For very good reasons, talk so far has all been of the miners, how they are feeling, how they are coping. Less has been said though about us, the onlookers, and how we have been affected.

Because we have. On my way into work I saw plenty of emotional reactions on Twitter. Journalist @IndiaKnight said: ‘Spent half the night sobbing at mine rescue and just got up and cried again at miner no. 6 really kissing his wife. Must get a grip’. @Stuiewood had a similar reaction: ‘Surprised myself by bursting into tears when the 6th miner hugged his wife for the first time. These Chilean's have incredible faith.’ And @VintageSecret said what many of us were thinking: ‘Watching BBC live stream of Chile mine. Puts worrying about what to wear today into perspective.’

But why? Why has this story touched so many people across the world? Is it because we feel for the miners and their predicament? Or because so many of us fear confinement and simply can’t imagine the horror they’ve been through? Perhaps it’s seeing the reactions — the raw emotion we so rarely see on TV — of the miners’ loved ones when they emerge from the cage? Or is it seeing this community that has built up around the mine, the singing, the shared experiences, the sense of real community? Over to you ….