SAN JOSE MINE, Chile: ''The honeymoon is over,'' explains Alberto Iturra, the lead psychologist in the operation to free 33 men trapped 700 metres deep in San Jose mine. As point man for the psychological health of the trapped men, Mr Iturra is at the receiving end of the rage of relatives of the miners who are upset at the Chilean government's refusal to deliver letters considered ''psychologically inappropriate''. ...I think that these psychologists are experts at torturing
With their health improving and patience expiring after six weeks underground, the 33 miners are restless. On several occasions, they have refused to talk to psychologists, cancelled a series of meetings with doctors, delayed implementation of vaccinations. The men have few problems, however, making their desires clear: cigarettes and wine. ...
As the miners regained weight and strength, however, their antagonism to the daily sessions increased. ''If there is one group that is not exactly disposed to psychologists it is miners,'' said Dr Rodrigo Figueroa, a psychiatrist with Chile's Catholic University who was hired by the Chilean government to monitor the mental health treatment.
In recent days, the miners have been asked to conduct interviews using a video camera. The videos were then carefully listened to by a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and nurses. In a further attempt to protect the men's mental health, the 33 men are divided into groups of three, allowing a near constant observation and platform for feedback about the health of each man.
In an effort to dominate the miners, the team of psychologists led by Mr Iturra has instituted a series of prizes and punishments. When the miners behave well, they are given TV and mood music. Other treats - like images of the outside world are being held in reserve, as either a carrot or a stick should the miners become unduly feisty.
In a show of strength, the miners have at times refused to listen to the psychologists, insisting that they are well. ''When that happens, we have to say, 'OK, you don't want to speak with psychologists? Perfect. That day you get no TV, there is no music - because we administer these things,''' said Dr Diaz. ''And if they want magazines? Well, then they have to speak to us. This is a daily arm wrestle.'' ...
While NASA experts brought to Chile as advisers have recommended sending the wines and withholding the cigarettes, the Chileans have done the opposite, saying the miners have nearly two kilometres of ventilated tunnels to smoke a cigarette and relax (as opposed to the confinement of space travel) while further noting the average miner consumes large quantities of alcohol.
''These are not PhD scientists, they are rough and tumble miners,'' said one doctor who asked not to be quoted for fears of losing his post.
people, and nothing else.