Video courtesy of Odyssey Network
“Moral Injury” is a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.
By 2015, according to Brown University study, 2.7 million service members have been to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and over half of them have deployed more than once. That number is higher by now. These soldiers face the risk of getting both visible wounds (physical injury), and invisible wounds.
Brett Litz, a clinical psychologist with VA Boston, defines Moral Injury as:
“The lasting psychological, biological, and social impact of perpetrating, failing to prevent, or being witness to act that transgress deeply held moral beliefs, and expectations.”
Moral Injury can be very detrimental to the life of those soldiers and their family and friends.
Untreated, moral injury can make a person feel guilty, ashamed, impure or unredeemable. It often causes the loss of the sense of trust, even trust of one’s self. It creates a sense of hopelessness.
About a month ago, I came across an article by David Wood about mental injury. He painted a vivid picture showing the struggle that the vets have with the invisible wounds they got as the result of their work experience, and how strongly those invisible wounds affect their life afterwards, including in the process of moving on to the next chapter of their life.
One story really stood up for me. It’s the story of Debbie Schiano who lost his son Joseph. He was part of Charlie One-Six Marine unit, deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. Joseph suffered from PTSD and Moral Injury.
There is also a story about Clint Van Winkle. Clint now is a writer and a film maker. His documentary ‘The Guilt’ tells a story about Clint’s friend Paxson who struggled with Mental Injury for losing his friend Brad who was deployed without him. It’s a touching story about pain, grief, love, camaraderie and peer support.
Reading those stories and watching that documentary made me think,
“How many ‘Paxsons’ are out there? The people that have to bear the burden, the weight of those difficult, crushing emotions? Do they have their own versions of Kipper and Van Winkle in their life? If they don’t, how can they find the people to help them unload and heal?”
I did more research and I found similar stories over and over again. And I know I have to do something.
William P. Nash, the director of the Psychological Health at the Marine Corps Headquarter
reconfirmed his finding on Soul Repair on a recent interview:
“The people who I have met and talked to over the years who had the best outcomes after a severe moral injury who’ve come through that hero’s journey, come out of the wilderness with this new wisdom that they bring to others is almost always because of relationships, because somebody listened to them, really listened, was able to hear some pretty horrible, horrific truths without becoming disgusted, without judging, without turning away, and then giving the person who spoke the greatest gift that we can offer, that is to say “I hear you, I believe you, but I still love you.” For that person to believe that, the best is if it comes from a person who they already know that this person they’re talking to really does care about them.
Moral Injury is real, it is one thing that can happen to people in bad situations.”
As Dr. Nash said, peer support works. And there are places in the states where you can go to get support for Moral Injury.
But what if you live in places where those resources are not available? Or what if you’re in the situation where you know that the people around you for whatever reason can’t bear the weight of your story so you can’t share it with them?
That’s how I came up with the idea of LifeLines Project.
LifeLines is a digital platform for veterans and their family to access free peer support from peer supporters across the nation. It’s like Uber for peer support service, but free.
If you believe that as a community, we can help and support each other; healing together as a nation, and that LifeLines can take part in doing that work by enabling the elimination of distance for vets and their family to get the peer support that they need, please support us. Thank you.
Photo credit: https://www.travelblog.org/Photos/2199062