Moral Injury-Moral Stress: Searching for Meaning Amidst Suffering
Carrie Doehring, PhD is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Iliff School of Theology and in the joint PhD program with Denver University.
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We of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness board are thankful for everyone who was able to attend the Moral Injury-Moral Stress Conference Thursday, Feb. 21 and Friday, Feb. 22 by Dr. Carrie Doehring with the three break out session facilitators, Kristen Erner, Pedro Silva and Bill Forbes. We regret that some of you were not able to attend. We did video Thursday’s presentation. Here is the YouTube link, so all of you can capture what Carrie was offering as well as Kristen, Pedro and Bill’s responses.
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What is Moral Injury?
Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values or codes of conduct.
Moral injury can lead to serious distress, depression and suicidality. Moral injury can take the life of those suffering from it, both metaphorically and literally. Moral injury debilitates people, preventing them from living full, healthy lives.
The effects of moral injury go beyond the individual, impinging on the family system and the larger community. Moral injury must be brought forward into the community for a shared process of healing.
In the context of a soul, with respect to the diversity of beliefs, including religion, held by those involved with Moral Injury, consider this perspective:
Moral injury is damage to the soul of the individual. War is one of, but not the only thing that can cause this damage. Abuse, rape, and violence cause the same type of damage. “Soul repair” and “soul wound” are terms already in use by researchers and institutions in the United States who are exploring moral injury and paths to recovery.
Moral injury does not, by its nature, present itself immediately. Some will experience questions of moral injury days after an incident; for many others, difficulties will not surface for years. Generally, moral injury is defined in personal, interpersonal, and collective ways as the erosive diminishment of our souls because our moral actions and the actions of others against us sometimes have harmful outcomes.