Study to explore veterans’ fears of disclosing ‘moral injuries’

File photo by © Can Stock Photo / dundanim

A new London-based study will examine confidentiality fears that keep veterans from getting treatment for so-called “moral injuries.”

Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute will be conducting the study over two years. The goal is to determine and better understand the barriers that prevent Canadian Armed Forces Veterans from disclosing details about their mental health.

“A commonly reported barrier when seeking mental health treatment is a perceived lack of confidentiality,” Lawson post-doctoral associate Dr. Anthony Nazarov said in a statement. “Since some events that induce moral injuries are ethically ambiguous, it’s possible that military personnel may withhold details of their trauma or even avoid seeking help due to worries about confidentiality.”

A moral injury comes from psychological distress suffered from performing, witnessing, or failing to prevent acts that conflict with deeply held moral standards. The number of such injuries is on the rise among military personnel and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, according to researchers at Lawson.

Researchers will be interviewing veterans at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Operational Stress Injury Clinic and gathering information from other military personnel and veterans across the country through an online survey. Mental health professionals will also be interviewed for the study.

“Through appropriate messages, it may be possible to dispel any false beliefs, increase trust in mental health professionals and, in turn, increase the number of veterans who choose to seek help,” said Nazarov.

The study is being funded by Veterans Affairs Canada and the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.