Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Updated: 2013-08-01 09:33

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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Psychological counseling offered by hospital ship helps crews stay healthy in mind and body, reports Peng Yining in the Gulf of Aden.

Editor's note: On June 10, the Peace Ark embarked on a 118-day voyage to provide medical assistance in a number of countries and take part in joint operations and exercises with fellow members of ASEAN. This is the fourth report by China Daily's Peng Yining.

Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Sailors stage an impromptu play, directed by psychologists on the Peace Ark as a form of counseling to help them relax. Photo by Zhang Hao / for China Daily

Li Wei's five months aboard an escort ship in the middle of the Gulf of Aden have been a high-pressure existence.

The 33-year-old marine engineer is no stranger to the rigors of life at sea.

There is the roar of the machinery in the engine room, with the nonstop sound and vibration from the ship's screw just a few meters away from his double-decker bunk.

Then there is the limited space in the cabin he shares with 17 other sailors, and the hot and humid weather.

He has had all of them in his previous deployments, but they suddenly became unbearable.

Li, a member of the People's Liberation Army navy for more than 15 years, has been on an 80-day mission before, but this is his first deployment since the birth of his daughter six months ago.

"I felt sick within a month of leaving port," he said. "I really miss my wife and baby girl."

He admitted that he hadn't slept well for months and noticed that his heartbeat has been unusually rapid. "I heard three months ago that the Peace Ark was coming to provide medical and psychological services. Since then, I've been counting the days," he said.

Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Officers from a Dutch escort ship the Van Speyk arrive for a visit to the Peace Ark. Ju Zhenhua / for China Daily

The Chinese hospital ship sailed from East China's Zhejiang province on June 10 on a 118-day voyage to provide medical services to eight countries in Asia and the Indian Ocean. The work the ship's medical specialists have undertaken on behalf of the Chinese and foreign escort fleets in the Gulf of Aden has been one of the most important aspects of the 2013 Peace Ark mission, according to Guan Bailin, head of the Chinese Navy's health department and Peace Ark's deputy commander.

"Life on deployment is tough. Sometimes only sheer willpower keeps everything going," he said. "In addition to the general medical treatments, the ship also provides psychological services. Peace Ark is like a battery recharge for the crews in the gulf and helps them stay healthy, physically and mentally."

During its stay in gulf waters, the ship was visited by the crews of three Chinese escort vessels. More than 500 sailors and officers came aboard for general health checks and around 20 of them, including Li Wei, received psychological counseling.

"It was good to have someone to talk with," said Li. "When you're out at sea, you can be with hundreds of people but still feel lonely. At my lowest ebb, I thought I couldn't finish the deployment, but I feel much better after the consultation."

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