Ever been faced with a high stakes situation that shook your core values? Now after making the choice, you feel unworthy and unable to trust your own judgement. Your soul feels like it has been ripped to shreds. What you are experiencing is moral injury. Since the pandemic, front line workers including therapists, health care workers and social worker have become more susceptible to the effects of moral injury.
Moral injury is the damage done to conscience or moral compass when a person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress ones’ own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct. Here are a few examples of situations that have resulted in moral injury: 1. Medical personnel may feel guilty about life and death decisions that they have had to make. ·2. Survivor’s guilt is common: this is when we start to wonder why we have blessing and privilege that are not afforded those we work with, or why we have survived a tragedy when another did not. 3. Guilt may be experienced when you are forced to tell someone that you cannot meet their needs due to insufficient funding, narrow scope of a project, or other reasons that are beyond your control. 4. Personnel may feel guilt and shame when catastrophic events take place at home while they are abroad. 5. Workers may be left confused and frustrated at having to leave behind friends in the event of an evacuation. 6. Some personnel may feel betrayed by decisions that are made by leadership that limit the ability to meet the needs of some beneficiaries. 7. Doctors and nurses may feel burdened to work with very little rest because they see themselves as the only source of help for people. “If I take a break, people die”. 8. Personnel may have witnessed acts of oppression or violence and wish they had done something to stop it What are the symptoms or signs of moral injury? · Guilt: After a moral injury, a person may experience remorse regarding the event. Because of the guilt associated with the event, some people may find it challenging to open up to friends, family members, or even therapists due to a fear of being judged and viewed as complicit in the harm done to others. · Shame: People may believe that they are a terrible person because they behaved in a way that contradicted their moral compass (e.g., “I am a bad person because of what I did.”). · Betrayal: A sense of betrayal can occur when someone observes trusted peers or legitimate authority figures act against values. Betrayal can lead to anger, resentment, and a reduced sense of confidence and trust. · Depression: For some people, a moral injury can be debilitating, preventing them from living healthy lives. The effects of moral injury can destroy one’s ability to trust others, leading to mental health problems such as depression. · Suicidal ideation: Struggling with moral injury can worsen the symptoms of a traumatic stress disorder, leading to a higher likelihood of suicidal intent and self-destructive behaviors, such as substance use. Moral injury can also exacerbate the symptoms of other mental health conditions, including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or depression. If you or someone you know are suffering from moral injury, please reach out for help from a therapist, family member or friend. Another option is if you are a leader of an organization noticing a trend of moral injury, click here to contact us to discuss how we can help you support your staff. To Your Health and Prosperity, Sharise