Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theology

Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling

Faculty/School

Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr K. Lund

Advisor Role

Provide academic guidance and edits for disseratation

Second Advisor

Dr B. Balmer

Advisor Role

Provide academic guidance, feedback, and edits for dissertation

Abstract

Moral injury is believed to exist within the Canadian Police Services though it is difficult to recognize and is usually ignored. The research data emerging from military and first responders (i.e., police, firefighters, and EMS personnel) reveal the effects of moral injury and its implications for mental and spiritual health as it persists throughout the life and career of those affected.

This study investigates how moral injury may emerge from a potentially traumatic event(s) and/or psychological trauma and/or independent from such trauma and how moral injury may come to exist in members of the Toronto Police Service, as well as how it affects their health and spiritual well-being. Although only two of the 15 participants had heard the term moral injury prior to the study, 13 participants believed they had experienced moral injury when the meaning was explained. Participants agreed that the range of criminal activity witnessed in the line of duty was a source of moral conflict and injury, in addition to the challenging decisions and actions inherent to police work. Experiences described by participants that challenged their identity as a “good guy” also contributed to moral conflict and moral injury. Those who had prior military experience and had been diagnosed with PTSD acknowledged that moral injury could be experienced in response to a traumatic incident that led to symptoms of PTSD, but could also be experienced without accompanying symptoms of PTSD.

Participants described emotional, mental and physical effects apparently associated with experiences of moral injury and identified coping strategies, including setting boundaries, faith, and social support. Social support was identified as one of the most helpful strategies for coping with the moral conflict and systemic frustrations.

Discernment is needed to differentiate between moral injury and PTSD. In addition, the question remains whether moral injury is as prevalent in the Canadian Police Services as it is in the military. Many questions remain unanswered; further empirical work is needed in this critical area.

Keywords: combat, beliefs, mental health, moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma

Convocation Year

2021

Convocation Season

Fall

Available for download on Wednesday, August 25, 2021

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