“I really don’t wanna think about what’s going to happen to me!”: A case study of psychological health and safety at an isolated high Arctic Research Station

Anna Temp (Lead Author), Billy Lee, Thomas Bak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Psychological problems over the course of isolated missions in extreme environments are common, even with modern screening techniques. Occasionally, these problems warrant evacuation of the afflicted individual but no in-depth insight into such a case has been given in modern times, until now. A 21-year-old man – Albert – developed severe psychological distress over the course of a winter expedition to the Polish Polar Station, Svalbard. We collected data on his mental health and his mood using the Symptom Checklist 90-Revised and the Profile of Mood States, and we assessed his cognitive functions with the Sustained Attention to Response Task and the Test of Everyday Attention. Phenomenological interviews gave him room to relate his experience. The data collection occurred repeatedly during the mission, until his evacuation. Albert struggled to derive joy from his work at the station. He missed his loved ones at home, and he felt he was cognitively declining due to intellectual deprival. His attempt at combing his life at home and his life at the station led to him feeling increasingly depressed. Crawfordian case analysis suggests that he felt more depressed than other team members at the station, and men of equal age and education in their home environment (p < 001). We attempted an intervention using emotional freedom techniques (EFT) to help improve his symptoms. It was moderately successful. Albert’s evacuation was medically warranted. The intervention temporarily alleviated his depressive symptoms. More such case studies should be conducted wherever possible.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSafety in Extreme Environments
Early online date16 Mar 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • isolated and confined environments
  • extreme environments
  • Winter-over syndrome
  • Polar psychology
  • emotional freedom techniques

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