Miners' elation tempered by reality

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The Australian Psychological Society (APS) joins the Tasmanian town of Beaconsfield and the entire nation in celebrating yesterday’s rescue of trapped miners, Todd Russell and Brant Webb. The APS congratulates the rescue team who worked tirelessly to ensure the health, safety and successful release of the miners.

APS psychologist Bev Ernst played a crucial role in working with Todd Russell and Brant Webb and monitoring their mental states throughout the 14-night ordeal. Ms Ernst provided research-based, constructive advice to the rescue organisers on how to best manage the psychological impact of the ordeal on the two trapped miners to minimise their stress and reduce the risk of long-term psychological problems.

Similar advice was just as applicable to their families, who have endured the same prolonged uncertainty as the miners and are likely to face similar issues of recovering from their ordeal. Also often not recognised is the stress experienced by rescuers, under pressure to achieve as fast a rescue as possible, acutely aware of the continuing hazards, and working under very difficult conditions.

“The immediate response, felt across much of the country, will be elation at the successful rescue,” Ms Ernst said. “But once the well-deserved party is over, many people will experience depression, particularly at the loss of life in this incident, as marked by yesterday’s funeral for miner Larry Knight. Those most deeply affected may well experience anger at the apparent randomness of the event and later experience mood swings which can confuse people if it isn’t understood that this behaviour is a normal part of the recovery from a traumatic experience.”

“Survivors, which includes all of the people most directly involved in and affected by this event, benefit most from good social and family support. They also are assisted by an acknowledgment of the normality and inevitability of whatever psychological distress they experience, as well as constructive encouragement to work through their feelings. Men are unfortunately at risk of feeling obliged to put on a brave face and so can be prevented from working through their feelings in order to lay the experience to rest as an ugly memory. We encourage all the survivors to keep an eye on their mates, be supportive of each other, and to encourage anyone clearly still struggling with bad memories in a month’s time to get some professional help. Most people won’t need this but it’s important for the few who do.”

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For more information contact:

Clare Johnstone
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Australian Psychological Society
03 8662 3301
0421 071 364