Recovering from Moral Injury After War
Rita Nakashima Brock
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In 2009, a group of VA mental health professionals published an article on the idea that soldiers returning from war may suffer not only from PTSD, but from "moral injury" as well. PTSD, of course, is a medical term; it is formally considered an anxiety disorder, and treatment of PTSD focuses on the use of antidepressants and therapy. PTSD is not discussed, and certainly not treated, in terms of the ethics and consciences of those who are in war zones. The VA psychologists, trying to make sense of what they were seeing among returning vets that PTSD did not seem to cover, described an extreme distress brought about by "perpetrating, failing to prevent, or being witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations." They concluded that vets often suffer from PTSD and also moral injury.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, who both grew up in families deeply affected by war, have been working closely with vets on the idea of moral injury -- what it looks like, how vets cope with it, and what can be done to heal the damage inflicted on soldiers' consciences. In "Soul Repair," the authors tell the stories of five veterans of wars from Vietnam to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to show their experiences of moral injury, their experiences upon returning home from war, questions of reparations, learning to live with moral injury, its effect on families, and the community and ritual processes that have gradually helped them with their moral injuries. In addition to describing the concept of moral injury, the book will discuss multiple approaches to dealing with moral injury and will include a resources section.
Soul Repair is a book for veterans, their families, medical professionals who are treating them, and the vets' religious communities who are seeking to help returning veterans readjust to civilian life and cope with their sense of moral injury.
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