12 Oct 2010

Concern for miners after they are freed

9:16 am on 12 October 2010

Pyschologists warn the Chilean miners who have survived more than two months underground will emerge forever changed and may struggle to return to normal life.

Rescue teams are preparing to start hoisting up to the surface the first of the 33 miners trapped about 700 metres underground at the San Jose mine, north of Santiago.

Authorities have offered at least six months of psychological follow-up to the men who have become national heroes, AFP reports.

The country's health minister says the men have managed the situation remarkably well and have been calm up to now.

However, he says some are showing signs of anxiety and others increasing heart rates as the exit approaches.

The miners will undergo a mandatory string of tests during 48 hours in hospital after they emerge from their underground chamber.

Hundreds of journalists worldwide have converged on the mine, hoping to capture the first images of the miners at the surface.

"The media will oppress them. Many of them will be bombarded with television deals, and could even make a career of it. But that will last several months," said Rene Rios, a sociologist from the Catholic University.

Psychologists said it would be a major challenge to adapt to changes in their families, routines and the outside world.

Enrique Chia, a psychologist from Chile's Catholic University, says the miners' "before life" is over and warned the readaption process would be a big challenge "full of risks".

Mr Chia said that the miners, aged between 19 and 63, would soon realise the limits of celebrity and hopefully the necessity to capitalise on their experience.

An ordeal like this "can make you stronger or weaker, but will never leave you the same", Chia said.