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NASA psychologist Dr. Albert Holland

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Rescued Miners Face Psychological And Other Health Hurdles

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NASA psychologist Dr. Albert Holland

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Now, to Dr. Albert Holland. He's a psychologist for NASA. The Chilean government brought him down to the mine site last month for advice on how to keep the miners mentally healthy while they were trapped.

And Dr. Holland joins us from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Welcome to the program.

Dr. ALBERT HOLLAND (Psychologist, NASA): Hi, Melissa.

BLOCK: You know, people seem to be worried about maybe a traumatic initial re-entry for the miners aboveground. It seems to be anything but that. We're seeing nothing but pure joy.

Dr. HOLLAND: Well, there's pure joy, and that should be the primary component, understandably. But I think there's some concern that once the adrenaline wears off and the notoriety wears off that, you know, maybe things will go south a little bit.

BLOCK: And what might happen? What would you be prepared for there?

Dr. HOLLAND: Well, I think that, for the most part, adaptation, everybody is going to have to do it, the family members, the miners, even the topside personnel as this thing wears off. But one consideration, of course, is making sure that there are no lasting repercussions from their confinement down there so that - I'm sure the physicians down there are looking for any signs of anxiety reactions or depression or even PTSD.

BLOCK: And you talked about the adrenaline wearing off. I suppose part of that would be the social bonds that were created down there. Once those dissolved, what replaces them?

Dr. HOLLAND: It appears that the social bonds were considerable. There was a great deal of cohesion within this group. But there will be a lot of pressures on these fellows as time goes by, because now they're going off to different environments, different opportunities, different stressors. The families have different pressures and different desires, and there may be some drift.

And I think some of them will want to stay in touch and get back together, and then others maybe will be okay with that. They'll maybe say this is just as it is, and I'm okay with seeing them less often or perhaps never again.

BLOCK: You know, I remember hearing midway through this ordeal of a moment when the miners had started getting food from aboveground. And there was a point at which they sent some of the food back. I think it was peaches. And they decided they didn't want them, and they sent them back. And I was wondering whether, from the psychological point of view, that's a really good sign.

Dr. HOLLAND: It actually is. And I was really pleased to hear that when I did hear that. And I thought, okay, these guys are in pretty good shape. It showed that they were engaged with the topside, and they were thinking beyond survival. And because, initially, that's what they were only thinking about, was survival. And now, they had a topside, and someone they could grouse at. And, frankly, that's sometimes the role of topside.

BLOCK: I wonder if you've stopped to think about the frame of mind of the very last miner who will come up. I guess, it's the group's leader, Luis Urzua. Thinking about what would be going through his mind, having watched all of his colleagues going up one by one.

Dr. HOLLAND: This is very appropriate, I think, and is telling about his leadership. It's like being the captain who is the last person off the ship. And I think it fits. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about him. I think he's an interesting person.

BLOCK: Dr. Holland, thanks so much.

Dr. HOLLAND: You bet.

BLOCK: That's Dr. Albert Holland. He's a psychologist for NASA, who was brought in by the Chilean government to advise on keeping the miners mentally healthy. He joined us from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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