WHAT IS MORAL INJURY?
Moral injury is described as ‘intense psychological distress which results from actions, or lack of actions, which clash with an individual’s moral or ethical code’.
Or to put it more simply, something you did (or couldn’t do) that felt totally against your morals.
It can happen in the Armed Forces when someone is following orders or specific rules of engagement. For instance, someone might witness human suffering and not be able to stop it. They desperately want to act differently but can’t.
Moral injury is not new, but we have a lot to learn about its causes, symptoms and treatment.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Although moral injury is not classified as a mental health condition, people can have profound feelings of guilt, anger, worthlessness and shame. This can make it hard for them to talk about their difficulties, which is a real barrier to recovery.
Moral injury is different from a fear-based injury like PTSD, where someone felt extreme fear during traumatic events.
With PTSD, treatment often involves reliving the trauma and the fear in a safe place while learning to process the memories properly. But with moral injury, people are traumatised by an event that’s violated their moral code.
WHAT ARE WE DOING/OUR RESEARCH
We are currently conducting trials, in collaboration with King’s College London, into a newly developed clinical treatment, ‘Restore and Rebuild’, for veterans with Moral Injury.
Initial trials have been successful, and the ultimate aim is for aim ‘Restore and Rebuild’ to be rolled out to support veterans across the UK.
Read more about the treatment trials here.
MORAL INJURY AND OPERATION PITTING
Moral injury is an important consideration when treating veterans of all conflicts. During the two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, our deployed personnel, and their families and friends, have made profound sacrifices which challenge mind, body, and soul. They do so, assured that their cause is morally just and good peoples' lives will be protected and improved.
For some, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power left them feeling frustrated, angry and betrayed; questioning whether the loss of life and broader sacrifice was worth it.
The service personnel who were part of Op Pitting, were exposed to situations that may have challenged their moral values on a daily basis, potentially leaving them vulnerable to the psychological distress associated with a moral injury.