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Moral Injury: The Emotional and Psychological Wounds Of War

ohn Millan, left, a 17-year member of the Washington Army National Guard who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 after serving in Iraq, talks with U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, right, deputy chief of staff, G-1, as Col. Mike Miller, center, looks on. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

ohn Millan, left, a 17-year member of the Washington Army National Guard who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 after serving in Iraq, talks with U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, right, deputy chief of staff, G-1, as Col. Mike Miller, center, looks on. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

An estimated 22 American veterans kill themselves every day. And suicide among men and women on active duty hit a record last year — at 349. The question is, why? What’s going on?

One in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, but some say that term doesn’t completely explain their emotional wounds. Consider the case of former Marine Corps Capt. Tyler Boudreau, who served in Iraq.

When Boudreau returned home to Massachusetts, he found it difficult to focus, he flew into rages and sank into depression. A doctor said he was suffering from PTSD, but Boudreau says the diagnosis was incomplete. He says he was also suffering from something called “moral injury,” which comes from participating in acts that conflict with one’s deep moral beliefs.

Guest

Capt, (Ret.) Tyler Boudreau, Marine Corps

Jonathan Shay, psychiatrist and author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

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WBUR: “Veterans who have been a part of something that betrays their sense of right and wrong often find themselves grappling with what researchers are only now beginning to understand – something that PTSD doesn’t quite capture. They call it “moral injury.” It’s not a diagnosis, but an explanation for many veterans’ emotional responses to their experiences of war.”


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