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Military psychologists promote well-being of soldiers
Author: Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]
Published: 24/08/2018

​​Military psychologists make a constructive contribution to the lives of soldiers and their families to protect our country and continent.

This was one of the viewpoints of Prof Gideon van Dyk from the Department of Industrial Psychology in the Faculty of Military Science at Stellenbosch University on Thursday (23 August 2018). He delivered his inaugural lecture on the topic Military psychology: contributions and challenges in the 21st century in Africa.

Van Dyk said the military is a challenging career characterised by trauma, risks, conflicting emotions, high demand on soldiers under fire and complications to make proper decisions without the necessary information.

“Soldiers may be making sacrifices that may lead to death, physical injury and/or amputations or the collapse of mental health with conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress and posttraumatic stress disorder."

“Military psychology can play a vital role before, during and after the deployment of soldiers."  

Van Dyk said military psychology is relevant in the military in Africa and has already made some relevant national and international contributions.

There are, however, still a few challenges that military psychologists face, he added.van dyk.jpg

“Firstly, the nature of war is busy changing. Military psychologists need to analyse the challenges and characteristics of new wars; translate the results into job-fit profiles of soldiers; bring into play factors such as emotional, cultural and electronic intelligence; develop more leaders from the edge; and transform training doctrines and organisational culture."

“Military psychologists need to educate soldiers so that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to manage trauma. Furthermore, military psychologists should develop an approach in a holistic framework to manage and treat trauma."

“Military psychologists also need to lead research on combat readiness and gender. They should develop soldiers' hardiness before operations as good as possible to sustain their combat readiness and mental health."

Van Dyk also highlighted the importance of leadership saying it is a buffer to enhance combat readiness and protect the mental health of a soldier.

He said commanders in the South African National Defence Forces should manage soldiers properly to ensure that they spend enough time in their unit and with their family.

Van Dyk emphasised the need in South Africa and Africa for a Centre for Military Psychology, Military Ethics and Military Leadership.

  • Main photo credit: Pixabay.
  • Photo 1: Proff Sam Tshehla, Dean of the Faculty of Military Science, Gideon van Dyk, and Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, at the inaugural lecture.