Moral injury, a term that makes many of us tilt our head in curiosity, is a surprisingly important topic within our community. Scott Hogue, the Chaplain at HopeWest, is hosting an open seminar on this subject, and here’s why it matters.

Moral injury occurs when something happens that makes you feel like you’ve gone against your moral code or who you thought you were. It’s not limited to the military; it affects medical professionals, police, firefighters, teachers, and others. The danger of moral injury lies in its potential to lead to isolation and, tragically, even suicide. What sets it apart from other forms of trauma is that it’s not about fear but about a profound sense of moral or self-betrayal.

During the seminar, various aspects of moral injury will be explored, including its definition, history, impact on individuals and the community, and ways to support those who experience it. These topics are important because they hit close to home.
Nationally, more veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have taken their own lives than have died in combat. Locally, the VA Hospital is recruiting additional social workers to help veterans cope with the challenges they face. The experiences of medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have also brought the issue of moral injury to the forefront.

So, what can we, as a community, do to assist those grappling with moral injury?

Simply being a good listener can make a noticeable difference. Sometimes, all someone needs is a non-judgmental ear. Encourage them to share their experiences in their own time and words.

Also consider the power of rituals. These can be traditional, like confession and forgiveness, or non-traditional, like art therapy or equine therapy. Such rituals can lead to healing and help individuals reconnect with the community.

We can also allocate resources and offer training. This means making sure help is available when needed, while also educating ourselves and others about moral injury.
In the end, moral injury isn’t just the problem of the person going through it. It’s a shared responsibility within our community because we all play a role in how events unfold. We sent people to war, provided them with training, and offered our prayers. So, it’s our responsibility to help them heal when they return home.

As an Army psychologist named John Rigg wisely said, “Medication doesn’t fix this stuff.” Instead, therapists focus on helping people navigate the feelings that they’ve done something wrong, but also realize that it doesn’t have to define their whole life.

Upcoming Moral Injury Seminars

The Moral Injury Seminar with Scott Hogue, HopeWest Chaplain is a chance for our community to better understand moral injury and learn how to support those affected by it.

Grand Junction
September 20, 2023
10:00-11:00 a.m.
Mesa County Central Library Community Room
443 N. 6th Street, Grand Junction

October 21, 2023
11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m.
Fairfield Center
200 Main Street, Meeker, CO 81641