Author Topic: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents  (Read 3142 times)

Offline Eric Hedman

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Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« on: 10/24/2018 11:38 pm »
I found an article about a Russian researcher in Antarctica that snapped and stabbed and critically wounded a colleague.  He said he was "Driven mad by living in confined space."  An early Mars outpost would definitely be a confined space.  That begs the question, since no screening of people can predict with absolute accuracy who will snap from isolation or any other form of stress, how do you plan for handling the possibility of someone losing it on a long space voyage or long stay on an isolated planet?  Does the risk make it a high priority to include a mental health export on an early crew?  What do you do about preparing for violence?  Do you include on an early Mars base a brig and other security measures?

Here is the article: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/antarctic-researcher-snapped-stabbed-colleague-13470907

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #1 on: 10/24/2018 11:44 pm »
I think there's an experiment going on right now related to this.  It's testing the mental health of a person isolated by spending all his time running two very ambitious companies that have lots of critics.

Online RonM

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #2 on: 10/25/2018 03:37 am »
Ask the US Navy how they screen sailors for submarine duty. Boomers stay out at sea for months at a time without surfacing. Maybe someone on the forum was a submariner.

Online Slarty1080

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #3 on: 10/25/2018 08:23 pm »
Good question - particuarly imortant if the residents plan on consuming water from Mars that is enriched with deuterium, consumption of which has been linked to depression.
The first words spoken on Mars: "Humans have been wondering if there was any life on the planet Mars for many decades … well ... there is now!"

Online spacenut

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #4 on: 10/25/2018 08:59 pm »
This is why they will need windows, even if underground living is built on Mars.  They also will need to get out in the open on little trips away from the base to explore, mine, etc.  Plants in either underground greenhouses or above ground will help also. 

Offline Bubbinski

Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #5 on: 10/25/2018 09:00 pm »
Would the test to qualify Air Force nuclear missile launch officers for stability be helpful for future missions?

If I were in charge of sending crews to the Moon, Mars, or an asteroid, I’d want to include a trained mental health professional as part of the crew (along with a trained medical doctor as well). I also recall seeing a plan to deal with a crime committed on ISS somewhere in the space station threads, that could be dusted off and updated?
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Online spacenut

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #6 on: 10/25/2018 09:13 pm »
Haven't though about crime with educated professionals.  However isolated for a long time, at least 2 years on a Mars deployment, could be a problem.  This shouldn't be a problem unless they are stranded longer than expected, or food and water supply get short.

Husband-wife teams will help, or at least a balance of men-women pioneer astronauts.  Constantly working on some project will also help.  Crews can't be left with too much idle time. 

I think with Mars crews, the trip there and back may be more taxing than while on Mars building a base colony. 

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #7 on: 10/25/2018 11:11 pm »
In the book "Too far from home" (about the astronauts stranded on ISS after Columbia) it talks about the psych profile testing the Russians had developed.  They wanted inner-directed people who could set their own goals.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #8 on: 10/26/2018 07:25 am »
If I were in charge of sending crews to the Moon, Mars, or an asteroid, I’d want to include a trained mental health professional as part of the crew

I'm not sure that would help much.  I tend to think that therapists can only be effective if they are neutral third parties, not people who are involved in the lives of their patients outside of their roll as therapist.  If they're crammed together with a small number of other people, the mental health professional will be part of the drama, not a neutral outsider.  I would think that would give them little value as a therapist.  Maybe negative value because then they'd be trying to act as a therapist but it would be resisted by others who wouldn't see them as neutral and that could lead to even more tension.

Maybe bring a therapy robot.

Offline speedevil

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #9 on: 10/26/2018 10:11 am »
This is why they will need windows, even if underground living is built on Mars.  They also will need to get out in the open on little trips away from the base to explore, mine, etc.  Plants in either underground greenhouses or above ground will help also.
'Things I personally enjoy' are not the same as things everyone enjoys, and you can make precisely the same argument for dogs,  horseriding or swinging through the canopy of dense jungle on vines.

What is required to be happy differs by individual, and some will value other things than the things you value.
What is an unbearably cramped sterile cramped environment for one is a friendly communal interesting environment for another.

Having enjoyable pursuits and things you find relaxing is conducive to mental health. Screening out people that can only find enjoyment and relaxation in things not available in the remote location is not unreasonable.


Offline Lar

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #10 on: 10/26/2018 02:49 pm »
Let's be careful to keep this firmly focused.

That said, I'm not totally sure that all husband and wife teams will work to reduce stress. People have affairs and if one is mono, that can be very stress inducing for all parties[1]. If I were setting requirements I'd require that everyone be polyamorous already, LOL.

1 - read the intro to Stranger in a Strange Land... it's fiction but shows what can go awry when you send two husband/wife teams
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Offline gosnold

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #11 on: 10/26/2018 07:09 pm »
This might be relevant, if a little bit old:

Gunderson, E. E. (1968). Mental health problems in Antarctica. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 17(4), 558-564.
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/681294.pdf

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #12 on: 10/30/2018 09:54 pm »
There's an update on the story that triggered me to start this thread.  The Russian scientist in Antarctica stabbed the other guy because he kept telling him the endings of books he was reading.  I guess it was a real spoiler alert.  I can imagine that people on the first Mars base will do things that annoy other people.  I guess this was a slight bit of an over reaction.

https://nypost.com/2018/10/30/antarctica-scientist-stabbed-colleague-for-spoiling-book-endings-report/

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #13 on: 10/30/2018 10:51 pm »
Don't forget in "The Martian", the commander had terrible taste in music and  a complete collection of "Three"s Company" videos. 

Clear societal rules on behavior seem to be called for. 
The Japanese have worked out behavior rules that help reduce tension in crowded living conditions.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #14 on: 10/31/2018 02:00 am »
There's an update on the story that triggered me to start this thread.  The Russian scientist in Antarctica stabbed the other guy because he kept telling him the endings of books he was reading.  ...
Deserved it.
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Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #15 on: 10/31/2018 07:29 am »
About a thousand people have wintered over In Antarctica every year in the 70 since the IGY.  There have been a handful of incidents, during that time (perhaps 4-5), including a suspicious death at the US south pole station.  Compared to other risks it is not to be ignored but it is very small.
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Offline Nomadd

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #16 on: 10/31/2018 08:09 am »
 Send loners. You know, those people who are more at ease in the wilderness, than with other people. At least, that's what they called them before anything outside a tiny area deemed normal by self appointed personalty police was labeled autism spectrum disorder.
« Last Edit: 11/04/2018 05:06 pm by Nomadd »
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Offline tea monster

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #17 on: 10/31/2018 08:18 am »
Interesting to know more about this incident.

People are isolated from friends, family and their normal lives. That is already setting up conditions where stress and mental instability can occur. Now factor into that situation someone who decides that it's amusing to bully one of their colleagues. The fact that the stabbing victim was known to be doing this before the violence occurred is telling. It's a good thing that the violence only affected one person. Who knows what could have happened if the knife man had decided to blame anyone else for how he was feeling.

In future space missions, especially if people are expected to spend 3 years in a large tin can, the mission Commander will have to be more proactive in detecting and defusing this sort of behaviour. Life is going to be precarious enough on a long duration space mission, without factoring in random acts of violence due to psychological issues.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #18 on: 11/01/2018 01:37 am »

In future space missions, especially if people are expected to spend 3 years in a large tin can, the mission Commander will have to be more proactive in detecting and defusing this sort of behaviour. Life is going to be precarious enough on a long duration space mission, without factoring in random acts of violence due to psychological issues.

It would be better to be a shared responsibility, not replying too much on the commander.
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Offline gosnold

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #19 on: 11/20/2018 08:22 pm »
Send loners. You know, those people who are more at ease in the wilderness, than with other people. At least, that's what they called them before anything outside a tiny area deemed normal by self appointed personalty police was labeled autism spectrum disorder.

Mars would not be the wilderness though. You either spend your time trapped in a tin can with your colleagues or in a cumbersome suit in an airless environment. No relaxing time off wandering the nature.

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #20 on: 11/22/2018 12:58 pm »
Maintaining the proper group dynamics is the responsibility of everyone.  You can not make one person responsible for it.   Japanese society works in such crowded conditions because everybody participates it and knows the rules of correct behavior.    Though there are some who completely withdraw and literally live in one room, called the hikikomori.

In the "Red Mars" trilogy, Michel, the psychologist in the initial crew, was one of the people who could not deal with living on Mars and had to return to Earth.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline DaveJes1979

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #21 on: 12/03/2018 05:40 pm »
Any Mars settlement is almost certainly going to have a small ratio of females.  This disproportion, itself, will be the source of tension and problems as the months tick by. 

In insular environments, venereal diseases also tend to be a problem.

Online spacenut

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #22 on: 12/03/2018 07:29 pm »
What do they do in Antarctica?  Snow everywhere through the long cold winters?  Seems like Mars will have a lot more work to do to keep people busy and occupied to avoid boredom. 
« Last Edit: 12/03/2018 10:41 pm by spacenut »

Online Slarty1080

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #23 on: 12/06/2018 03:51 pm »
Any Mars settlement is almost certainly going to have a small ratio of females.  This disproportion, itself, will be the source of tension and problems as the months tick by. 

In insular environments, venereal diseases also tend to be a problem.
I don't see why there should be fewer females or any problem with venereal diseases. Initially at least and probably for a very long time, there will be far more people who want to go to Mars than there is room for so people will be selected by some sort of committee. It is hard to see them selecting all men (or all women) in this day and age. In addition, before anyone flew they would be subject to an intense medical. Every attempt would be made to prevent contaminating the Mars colony with unwanted pathogens, venereal diseases included. Even if there were an outbreak, once it was identified it would be relatively easy to track down who had it and give them antibiotics as the colony would be relatively small for a long time.
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Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #24 on: 12/06/2018 04:07 pm »
Any Mars settlement is almost certainly going to have a small ratio of females.  This disproportion, itself, will be the source of tension and problems as the months tick by.
Why would a Mars settlement "almost certainly" have a small ratio of females?  I know there are more men than women in STEM fields, but there should still be a fairly large pool of highly qualified women to draw from for going to Mars.  Part of the selection criteria may be what keeps a more stable social environment.  Gender balance may be important in maintaining that, so why not?

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #25 on: 12/13/2018 02:08 pm »
I am adding this here because it probably doesn't need a new thread.  Two technicians died in Antarctica who had been working on a fire suppression system.  I can imagine this is also the kind of risk a lunar or Mars outpost can have that could add to the stress:

https://apnews.com/9ed2dc90892944459f2268b0c0a5eba5

Offline Elvis in Space

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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #26 on: 12/13/2018 04:54 pm »
My father was a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy. He was a fervent believer in the adage that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" and handled both me and his sailors accordingly. He was fond of pointing out that all of the endless manual tasks on a ship from incessant chipping and painting to peeling potatoes were important not only for the obvious reasons but it kept sailors busy. "Too busy to get into trouble" was another mantra of his. At the time I didn't understand that this was also a reason he insisted on me and my siblings always being on sports teams or otherwise involved with something. I have to admit it was a successful strategy.

When a cousin of mine joined the USN and became a nuclear machinists mate on strategic missile subs I was amazed at how he would remain sane being underwater in a confined space with 140 guys for 2 or 3 months. My cousin was a very reserved sort but he was only human. This was when my father explained a great deal about being busy to me but he also pointed out that my cousin would have the additional distraction of "the mission". His was a job where every hour was just as important as any other and that focus was a big part of not losing your mind no matter what your personality was like. Time doesn't mean as much when you have a goal. Personal behavior doesn't affect things as greatly when you have to rely on the guy next to you to stay alive. "The mission" was what made many days in his Navy more than "just a boat trip."
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Re: Mental Health of isolated outpost residents
« Reply #27 on: 12/13/2018 05:09 pm »
About a thousand people have wintered over In Antarctica every year in the 70 since the IGY.  There have been a handful of incidents, during that time (perhaps 4-5), including a suspicious death at the US south pole station.  Compared to other risks it is not to be ignored but it is very small.

This. It is worth noting that such violence is quite rare. TV shows about space missions will dramatize inter-personal conflicts it for ratings, but it's not likely to be a big factor on actual missions. As far as I know there have been nothing even close to such incidents on the ISS.

All crewmembers should be very thoroughly trained in de-escalation of conflicts.
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