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Chilean miners to get antidepressants

There are 33 miners who are trapped deep underground in Chile.  Although lucky, in that they are still alive, by the standards of mining accidents they now face a four underground month wait until they can be brought to the surface.

Media and public interest has been running high and concern has been inevitably been raised about the psychological effect of the prolonged incarceration on the miners. 

The Chilean health minister addressed this:

"We expect that after the initial euphoria of being found, we will likely see a period of depression and anguish," he told reporters. "We are preparing medication for them. It would be naive to think they can keep their spirits up like this."

As a result alongside food and clothing, the Guardian reports that antidepressants are being provided to the miners. 

What, I wonder, is an appropriate mental state for a trapped miner?  So far the reports from underground suggest that the miners are actually coping pretty well.  They siphoned water from the radiators of their vehicles, they rationed their food.  These men are seasoned miners in a dangerous job but yet it is fragility rather than resilience that is assumed for them. 

It may be that antidepressants may eventually be reasonably offered in some cases, but blanket prophylaxis is surely not necessary. 

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  1. The Guardian said no such thing.

    ‘Officials remain concerned about the mental health of the miners over the months to come, and have discussed sending them antidepressants or allowing them to talk to psychologists’

  2. I used the wrong link, sorry. This one from the Guardian says

    “MaƱalich said the miners would also be given antidepressants.”

    MaƱalich is the health minister.

    I’ve changed the link now. Here’s the one I originally used in error.

  3. Its good to hear that the miners are coping well, and whilst it does seem strange to offer them antidepressants at this stage, they might be useful later on if the miners have trouble coping.

    That said, it does seem a little strange to be offering medicine to them. One of the points of a biological model of depression is that something is wrong with your brain (chemical imbalance MAO hypothesis). Clearly in the case of the miners, its because something tragic has happened in their lives. It just illustrates how much of a muddy and interdependent biopsychosocial condition depression actually is.

    A counsellor friend of mine suggested that counselling would be more appropriate, although he then joked that this could be a little hard at present, as a counsellor would have to shout: “HOW DO YOU FEEL? ABOUT BEING TRAPPED IN A MINE?”

    Joking aside, lets hope they get the miners out and that they and their families are not too traumatised by the experience.

  4. Perhaps the trapped miners should start taking headache tablets now or else they might get a headache, and they’d better start taking sleeping tablets immediately in case they develop a sleep problem, and we’d better send some antipsychotic pills down to them now just in case they’re heading for a psychotic breakdown, and… But if, by any chance, they cope well with their difficult situation, oh dear, that’s not normal, is it? That would surely call for a diagnosis and treatment.

  5. No need to section them as they’re already contained.

  6. Really?! Instead of anti-depressants give them something safer, like pot. lots of little LED flashlights. A book on guided journeys. Maybe some mushrooms. Or LSD. Help them become one with the rocks. Any women down there? If this were a Horror Movie I know how it would play out; and it would definitely involve pickaxes to the skull. Maybe this will become a microcosm for the new Earth where everyone can get along. Aren’t we all just 6.7 billion miners stuck? And where is our safety tube full of drugs.

  7. Clearly what they need isn’t so much medication or counselling as something to help them deal with the boredom and lack of stimulus.

    All we have to do is find a very very thin occupational therapist and squeeze her down the pipe.

  8. Have to say, I think I would go off my head. I know I would and commit suicide.

    Lots of valium, or E’s might help me through it.

    I dont think Prozac would work – to be told wait 6 weeks – cruel

    Yup, gradual ramping up of valium for me I think.

  9. I’ve been following this story very closely, and the psychiatric medications are being sent for five miners who are exhibiting symptoms of depression and acute anxiety. While the others all appeared on the video in good spirits, these miners didn’t because they are isolating themselves, cannot sleep, have lost their desire to eat even though they are literally starving, and are having anxiety attacks.

    Importantly, they are manifesting these symptoms when the other 28 are euphoric over being found, so if they’re depressed now, they’ll get more depressed as the euphoria wears off. They are also manifesting these symptoms even though they are getting frequent letters from loved ones.

    So obviously something needs to be done for these five miners, but what? It doesn’t say if any of the five miners was being treated before the mine collapse, but if not, then it’s risky to give them anti-depressants because anti-depressants can take 4-6 weeks to kick in and cause side effects during that time, sometimes making it worse before making it better.

    Tough situation that I’ll continue to follow.

  10. i’ve been following this story even more closely and I think all the miners are very down – about 700 meters down. I’d say they need something to lift them up.

  11. The engineers are now preparing to dig a hole that will eventually provide the miners witha means of escape….Yet even if the drilling is successful, for some there will not be a guarantee of freedom; at present 9 of the miners are thought to be too fat to fit through the projected tunnel! Slimming pills as wel as anti-depressants!

  12. Perhaps with that many men in confined quarters, they’re hoping the miners wil “benefit” from some of the more… intimate side-effects, which (un?)luckily kick in quite early.