What psychological issues can arise for rescued Thai soccer team

Dr. Russell Jones talks about mental health after traumatic event (WTOP's Hillary Howard and Shawn Anderson)

WASHINGTON — As the 12 boys and their soccer coach are evaluated after being trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for over two weeks, one expert stresses the importance of also screening their mental health.

Dr. Russell Jones specializes in trauma psychology and post-traumatic stress at Virginia Tech, and he told WTOP that post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, anxiety and any phobias are just a few psychological issues that can come up, especially soon after their harrowing rescue.

“There’re going to be a number of issues that arise as time goes on, and I think that really depends on a number of things,” Jones said.

“I think it depends on how they experienced the event, what things they heard, what things they saw, what kind of messages were conveyed, to what degree was there support in the cave, to what degree might there have been great apprehension.”

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One diver, a former Thai Navy SEAL who volunteered as part of the rescue effort, died while replenishing oxygen canisters.

Knowing that someone was killed in the process of saving the boys, ages 11 to 16, must have “added to the level of trauma and distress,” Jones said.

But, he added, it’s also important to take into account how the boys were doing before they were trapped in the cave because that will also impact how they adjust to their experience afterward.

“Our trauma data tells us that those kids that were doing well before the event, those kids that were resilient, particularly those kids that had good social support, are likely to do well following the event,” Jones said.

Kids who have psychiatric history or maybe have had difficulty at home or school could possibly adjust more poorly, he added.

The boys did have support from their 25-year-old coach, who spent time as a Buddhist monk and has experience with meditation, according to The Associated Press.

“Adolescents are especially social creatures, and having friends with them as well as their coach would be a tremendous help,” David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University’s medical school, told AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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