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Moral Injury in Military Operations: A Review of the Literature and Key Considerations for the Canadian Armed Forces

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Technical Report

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Defence Research and Development Canada - Toronto Toronto, Ontario Canada

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As the Canadian Armed Forces CAF regroup from its largest deployment since Korea and the longest combat deployment since the Second World War, emerging mental health data suggests that approximately 14 of CAF personnel who had deployed to Afghanistan had a mental health disorder that was linked to the Afghan mission. This paper focuses on a particular psychological aftermath of military operations, that which may be associated with the moral and ethical challenges that personnel face in military missions. More specifically, in this paper I provide an introduction to the concept of moral injury, formally defined as the psychological anguish that can result from perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations Litz et al., 2014, p. 697. I begin with a brief overview of the essential role of morality and ethics in military operations. I then outline the historical development of the concept of moral injury, discuss its symptomology, and outline the current approaches to treatment. I conclude by discussing anumber of key considerations for the CAF in terms of a way ahead with respect to the issue of moral injury.

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