How Will Rescued Thai Boys Cope On The Outside?
"There will be the things that haunt them", trauma expert says.
The first lot of boys have already been rescued and hopes are high the remaining soccer players and their coach will soon emerge, but the impact of nearly a fortnight in darkness might last long after the Wild Boars team leave the Tham Luang cave in Thailand.
The first quartet of the lost 13 were taken from the cave late on Sunday night, and rushed to hospital for assessment. Experts said managing the group psychologically was the most important thing at this stage.
"The people who are out will feel an enormous sense of relief but be immensely preoccupied about their friends. Survival guilt, people who survive in situations where friends have died or haven't got out yet, can be very troubling," Professor Alexander McFarlane, head of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide, told ten daily.
He said it would be a true boost for the remaining children and coach to learn the first four boys had been safely rescued. Communication from the outside into the cave is impossible, and Ten Eyewitness News reporter Daniel Sutton said even by Monday morning, it was possible the remaining boys did not know the outcome of the first rescue mission.
"For the people who remain, there will a degree of increasing optimism if they see some of their mates get out," McFarlane said.
"It will be fascinating to know how the coach has been managing them. He has probably been focusing them on hope and survival."
McFarlane said while the boys are likely to initially be in good spirits upon their rescue, they have experienced lasting effects from their time trapped underground.
"Long term, there will be the things that haunt them. When they can reflect on the risks, getting reminders of dark or being trapped can be intensely anxiety-provoking. Even feelings of being hungry or thirsty can make them again worry and be fearful of where they were," he said.
"I’m sure they weren't told about the death of the navy diver. That would be the worst thing they could hear."
There were conflicting reports over whether the strongest or the weakest boys were rescued first, but Thai media said at least two of the four removed from the cave on Sunday were in poor condition.
Bill Griggs, a disaster rescue specialist who worked on the response to the Bali bombings and the Asian Boxing Day tsunami, said the choice of those to be first may have come down to each boy's energy or confidence.
"The physical conditions of the boys, that's part of it, but also the psychological and emotional condition. They're young boys, there's actually some advantages to that, young boys tend to be keen on being adventurous," he told Studio 10 on Monday.
"I think a lot of it might be around who felt they were up to having the first go."
Brant Webb, a former miner who was trapped underground for two weeks during the Beaconsfield mine disaster in 2006, said positivity was key in the survival of himself and friend Todd Russell.
"Just to have the medicos on the end of the phone. We’d tell stories, keep your mind off it, keep you positive," Webb told Studio 10.
"The wait those other guys have got... as Todd said to me when we got out, he said ‘you were gone for three and a half minutes, it felt like a whole fortnight again’. You can imagine the 11 hours these guys have to go through, waiting for the next guys. They'd be biting every fingernail they've got."
McFarlane said keeping the boys calm, and reuniting them together with family and friends, was the next steps.
"When they get out, the idea people need acute counselling is nonsense. They just need to feel safe, be reunited with their parents. They need to know all is well," he said.
"The medical checks are to make sure they're not dehydrated or having metabolic stress. It's about reassuring them and giving them a sense of safety, making them feel someone is in control."
"The way parents react is critical in how the kid copes. The parent is the interpreter of the world for kids, so it's important to assist parents on how they will speak to and manage the kids when they get out."