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Moral Decisions and Military Mental Health (Decisions morales et sante mentale dans l'armee)

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Technical Report

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Moral decisions involve fundamental personal or societal values of what is considered right and wrong or good and bad and typically involve issues that are related to the interest or well-being of others. Military operations also often involve moral decisions because they too are rooted in fundamental values and affect the well-being and survival of the decision-makers, their subordinates and peers, their adversaries and the civilians impacted by the conflict. For instance, these decisions require the service member to consider, balance and sometimes to choose among mission success, civilian safety and force protection. Some of these decisions will be clear, such as not killing noncombatants, but others may be more difficult as they are ambiguous. As such, moral decisions are among the most difficult that soldiers will face, and they exist throughout the full-spectrum of military operations e.g., peacekeeping, peacemaking, humanitarian, and combat. Moreover, the consequences of a single bad decision can erode local, national, international and Host Nation support thereby derailing the strategic mission and putting troops at risk. There is also emerging evidence linking moral decisions, attitudes and behaviors to military mental health and well-being means that attention to this issue is a crucial component of leaders responsibility for their soldiers. Currently there are no NATO-wide, standardized education or training packages to help military personnel make these decisions or deal with the potential impact of the decisions on service member mental health and general psychological well-being. The work of NATO HFM-179 was to review the existing evidence in this area, providing recommendations concerning various initiatives that can address this issue, including education and training, after action reviews, counseling, reintegration programs that seek to mitigate the threat to the mission and soldier well-being.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Stress Physiology
  • Sociology and Law

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