Beyond “good guys and bad guys” — Helping Veterans Deal with Moral Injuries

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Many people tend to think of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as resulting from a scenario where you get attacked and have your safety and life threatened in some way — indeed, this is typically the case. However, trauma and moral injury (see below) can also come from violence enacted toward others.

Moral Injury is a lesser known term, but is receiving more attention from mental health care providers and researchers. Definitions vary somewhat, but it is generally defined as a negative psychological response to events that challenge our morals and values. What you previously believed about yourself or others gets changed in some significant way. You may no longer trust or respect yourself or others as moral beings because of what happened in combat. It can happen when a soldier kills or harms another person, or when they see another person (especially someone they respect) act in an immoral way.

Moral injuries can leave you feeling as though you’re a different person, that people are inherently flawed and immoral, and perhaps that the world itself is a terrible place, devoid of meaning.

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