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Thai cave boys: the psychology of surviving underground

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WHEN 12 young footballers and their coach entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand, it was supposed to be a fun outing after football practice. But when a torrent of flood water rushed in after heavy rain, the group became trapped on a small rock shelf deep inside the cave’s vast network of tunnels.

It was nine days before two British divers, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, located the group – mercifully alive and apparently in good physical and mental health. But how do people cope with such life-threatening events? And why is it important to focus on psychological, as well as physiological impact?

When the boys first became aware that they were facing a life-threatening situation they would have experienced a number of physiological reactions. Fight or flight responses, such as an increase in heart rate, would have kicked in immediately, designed to help us stay alive.

SEE ALSO: 4 out of 12 Thai schoolboys rescued from Tham Luang Cave

But despite their physiological benefits, these neurochemical changes can affect our brain, and impair our mental functioning. During the initial stages of an emergency situation our brains may perform poorly, potentially resulting in poor decision-making and memory failures.

Fortunately, when the flood waters came crashing in, the Thai footballers and coach appear to have remained level headed. They were able to control feelings of panic, and made the rational decision to find a safe place and wait.

Rescue personnel work at the Tham Luang cave complex, as members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive according to local media,........

© Asian Correspondent