The Guardian has an insightful and moving article on how the thirty three Chilean miners and their families have coped with their post-disaster world, many under the beguiling spotlight of the global media.
The article looks at the largely unknown story of the how the men’s families dealt with the days leading up to their rescue, who were not even known to be alive until their famous note appeared attached to the drillhead after 17 days underground.
It also examines the difficult process of adjustment that both the men and the families have faced since the rescue.
Back home, the men have received weekly therapy as part of a government insurance scheme that covers their incomes until they are able to go back to work. But their global travels have meant patchy attendance – and pretty quickly, the authorities were threatening to withdraw the therapy if they continued to go abroad and miss sessions. Meeting the miners, you sense that there has been no coherent strategy to help them find their way back to any sort of normality, no serious attempt to help them through their extraordinary experience.
Ariel says he does not need any therapy; others complain that the meetings are pointless and lead nowhere. You sense they have not been told in any coherent way the long-term nature of the trauma they may have suffered and the type of treatment that may require. They were, after all, trapped underground for longer than any other recorded group of men. Certainly in many cases the therapy has combined with much shorter-term solutions: astonishing levels of medication – pills to let them sleep, pills to keep them calm when awake.
Some of the men find solace with one another. The bonds of friendship and solidarity they forged down the mine are now stronger than those with their own families. Others refuse to see one another at all – jealousy over who is appearing where, appearance money and fame have driven them apart. That is the men.
Their wives and partners have to live with them, desperately trying to work out how to cope with quiet lives blown apart. For them, of course, there has been no help on offer.
Apparently the author of the piece has made a documentary about the men and their families on exactly this topic called ’17 Days Buried Alive’ which is due to be broadcast on UK TV on the 12th of August.