Greater prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in deployed Canadian Armed Forces personnel at risk for moral injury
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BACKGROUND: A link between moral injury (i.e., the psychological distress caused by perceived moral transgressions) and adverse mental health outcomes (AMHO) has been recently proposed. However, the prevalence of exposure to morally injurious events and the associated risk of experiencing AMHO remains understudied. METHOD: The impact of exposure to potentially morally injurious experiences (PMIEs) was explored in relation to past-year PTSD and MDD, using the 2013 Canadian Armed Forces Mental Health Survey dataset of Afghanistan mission deployed regular force and reserve personnel. A series of logistic regressions were conducted, controlling for relevant sociodemographic, military, deployment, and trauma-related variables. RESULTS: Over half of the deployed personnel endorsed at least one PMIE. Several demographic and military variables were associated with exposure to PMIEs. Those exposed to PMIEs demonstrated a greater likelihood of having past-year PTSD and MDD; feeling responsible for the death of Canadian or ally personnel demonstrated the strongest association with PTSD and MDD. Mental health training was not a moderator for PMIE exposure and AMHO. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to PMIEs during deployments is common and represents an independent risk factor for past-year PTSD and MDD. Improved training that targets moral-ethical dilemmas and treatment interventions that address moral injury expressions is warranted.
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