TALK: Combat Trauma and Moral Injury

Jonathan Shay (author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming)
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Injury of mind and spirit from war is often broader and more destructive than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as officially defined. The strict definition can be understood as the persistence, after battle, of the valid adaptations in brain and mind that kept you alive when other humans were trying to kill you. In civilian life, these adaptations are not needed and become impairments. In the ‘90s, Shay coined the term “moral injury” for a painfully common source of the “something more,” not captured by PTSD, but supremely captured by Homer in his portrait of Achilles in the Iliad. Compared to pure PTSD, moral injury destroys the capacity for trust, increases suicidality, domestic violence, and criminality, and wrecks the capacity for a flourishing human life. Shay will explain moral injury, describe how the term is now used for two related but different damages of war, and give his view on the prevention of psychological and moral injury in military service. Shay, a 2007 MacArthur Fellow, has spent over twenty years working with veterans and military leaders. He is a passionate advocate of improved mental health treatment for soldiers and of more effective efforts to prevent PTSD and moral injury in military service.

Sponsored by the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the IHC series FalloutIn the Aftermath of War.

Click here to listen to recording of Jonathan Shay’s talk from the IHC Fallout series.

• Learn more about the IHC series Fallout: In the Aftermath of War

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