Chinese soldiers on parade in 2015.
“Psychological service work is a regular basic task in the military, and the psychological health of officers and soldiers directly affects the combat effectiveness of the troops.”
There has been an increase in attention to psychological issues within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in recent years. It is not clear if this is an indication of increased psychological problems among the troops or simply increased reporting. Some issues involve recruits born as late as 1995 having trouble adjusting to the regimentation of the military, difficult training conditions, and isolated garrison locations.
The military’s approach to psychological problems within its ranks is discussed in a recent PLA Daily article. A brigade in the 74th Group Army in the Southern Theater has an embedded Psychological Service Team, which is a recent development. The counselors, apparently also found at the battalion and company level, seek to identify and help personnel with possible psychological problems.
The chief of the brigade’s combat service planning section reported that all personnel in the unit were psychologically screened. The brigade’s party committee conducted investigations at the battalion and company level to ensure that the psychological counseling was achieving results. The investigation concluded that there was a general lack of attention to mental health, and that problems remained. In response to the investigation, the brigade created a psychological work supervisory mechanism office led by a psychologist and military doctor to provide professional support for the psychological services for the brigade. Psychological issues within the PLA are not isolated to the one brigade. The article recounts similar stories in other units, and psychological stations established in new medical buildings. These efforts have reportedly significantly reduced the rate of mental illness among officers and soldiers. The PLA is concerned that psychological issues in the force during a future high-intensity conflict will adversely affect combat capabilities and contribute to noncombat attrition of the units.
“一个心理服务队的“心力量 (The ‘Heart Power’ of a Psychological Service Team),” PLA Daily (Official PRC Military Newspaper), 31 May 2023. http://www.81.cn/szb_223187/szbxq/index.html?paperName=jfjb&paperDate=2023-05-31&paperNumber=05&articleid=907041
“…Under the new situation and new tasks, we must raise awareness, improve work guidance, change “passive defense” into “active force”, and effectively improve the psychological immunity of officers and soldiers against negative emotions and mental illness.
… The psychological response to wartime stress has a significant impact on non-combat attrition. According to the annual education plan, it is necessary to strengthen the popularization of psychological health knowledge among all officers and soldiers, educate and guide them to face psychological problems, overcome the “disease shame” of turning pale when talking about psychological issues, be good at discovering their psychological problems, actively seek external help, and effectively build a strong psychological defense line; By combining major combat readiness, training, exercises, stationed training, and other tasks, we aim to build a dedicated combat environment, promote advanced models of military training and preparation, strengthen the cultivation of officers and soldiers’ combat spirit, and forge a solid spiritual core.…The future war will be a high-end war with high force, high intensity, high confrontation, and high intelligence. The strength of the psychological qualities of officers and soldiers directly affects the success or failure of combat operations. At all levels, it is necessary to actively carry out psychological adjustment and motivation training for personnel at different levels, task situations, and regional environments, under the guidance of a professional psychological backbone, using real-life construction, VR simulation, and other technical means. It is also necessary to rely on facilities and equipment such as psychological behavior training fields to regularly organize military physical fitness and skills coherent training and assessment. At the same time, it is also necessary to combine the execution of major tasks, strictly temper officers and soldiers under similar actual combat conditions, and cultivate their strong psychological endurance.”
Image: Chinese soldiers on parade in 2015.
Attribution: Creative Commons Int