BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While many people might assume that the men
rescued from the mine in Chile might suffer from psychological
problems that require therapy, the miners' survival of the ordeal
may actually provide a worldwide lesson on the remarkable strength
of human resilience, says a University at Buffalo researcher.
"That doesn't mean being trapped with 32 others in a small
chamber 2,296 feet beneath the earth for 69 days in 90-degree heat
was easy. It was harrowing, mentally stressful and for some it
constituted a medical emergency. But the men had good reason to
expect a rare happy ending," says Michael Poulin, PhD, UB assistant
professor of psychology and an expert on human response to stress
"The men worked well with one another and with those above
ground toward that end, and were successful. So I think they will
do very well now, unless the forthcoming media onslaught makes
their time underground seem like a reprieve."
For people around the world praying for and celebrating the
miners' apparently successful rescue, Poulin says the way the
miners coped with threat to their survival is instructive in
understanding how people in general cope with life's
"So many of us face stresses like illness, injury, economic
crisis, loss of employment, loss of home, which in turn mean a loss
of our sense of predictability and control and a loss of the
everyday routines that give our lives meaning.
"The miners' lives also were disrupted in a terrifying and
unexpected way. But even in this frightening new environment, they
set out to create new routines, sleeping in shifts, and devising a
schedule for doing what needed to be done, such as moving rock and
earth displaced by the drilling. They adopted new roles -- one
miner, for instance, took on the role of spiritual advisor, one was
the medic, and so on."
The way the miners approached their particular crisis is
instructive of how the rest of us can and should cope with our own
crises and stresses, Poulin says, "In fact, it mirrors the advice
psychologists give to people whose lives have been disrupted.
"These men could have just sat there, marking time on the wall.
But instead, even in a situation unique and terrifying in their
lives, they determined what needed to be done, who should do what
and when, and set about giving order and meaning to their
experience. That practice, as much as anything else, reflected and
promoted their mental and emotional well being. It's a lesson for
the rest of us."
As the miners' lives return to normal, Poulin expects other
insights into human resilience will come to light and the story
will continue to play out in the public eye.
"People love stories of redemption, in which something awful
happens, the victim endures a long struggle and then is saved,"
One of our expectations of a redemption story is that the
"redeemed return stronger and better off than they were in the
first place -- we dearly want to believe this. In fact it's a part
of the story to which we are particularly attracted," he says.
"So their rescue is not the end of the story. There will be many
tales told, published and broadcast of what happened to these men
after they were saved."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.