Moral Injury and PTSD Prevention

What is moral injury?

Like psychological trauma, moral injury is a construct that describes extreme and unprecedented life experience including the harmful aftermath of exposure to such events. Events are considered morally injurious if they “transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (1). Thus, the key precondition for moral injury is an act of transgression, which shatters moral and ethical expectations that are rooted in religious or spiritual beliefs, or culture-based, organizational, and group-based rules about fairness, the value of life, and so forth. (National Center for PTSD)

For the sake of this article, I am focusing on the impact of not being physically prepared to do the job. For example, a fellow officer is in a foot pursuit with an armed robbery suspect and you see them about 25 yards away. You exit your patrol car and start to move in their direction. As you approach, you see that the suspect and the officer have jumped over a 6′ fence. You attempt to get over the fence, but because of the 25 extra pounds you gained over the last year and the lack of upper body strength, you are unable to get over the fence. As you are looking through the fence, you see that the officer has caught and tackled the suspect. A struggle over the suspect’s gun ensues and the officer is critically wounded.

How would that make you feel? Is it possible that you will develop PTSD from the incident? Is it possible that if you were able to get over the fence and help your partner, he/she wouldn’t have been wounded and PTSD would not be an issue?

I would argue that in MANY cases, PTSD is NOT preventable, but in some cases it IS! Your level of fitness is something you can control. Run, lift, stretch and be prepared to do YOUR job!

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