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Volunteers of America Launches Moral Injury Initiative

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For Immediate Release:

Contact: Vicki Bendure, Bendure Communications
(540) 687-3360 or vicki@bendurepr.com

David Burch, Volunteers of America
(703) 341-5054 or dburch@voa.org

ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 13, 2019—Volunteers of America has launched a significant moral injury initiative by establishing the Shay Moral Injury Center. The center, run by Rita Nakashima Brock, Ph.D., is named for Jonathan Shay, a medical doctor and clinical psychiatrist who is best known for his work with post-traumatic stress disorder and introducing the concept of moral injury.

Moral injury is a relatively new term used to describe a crisis that soldiers and others have faced for centuries, the internal suffering that results from doing something against your moral code. In essence, it is a wound to the conscience.

“It’s not just members of the military that experience moral injury,” explained Brock, senior vice president of Volunteers of America moral injury programs. Brock leads Volunteers of America’s efforts to identify and treat moral injury as part of its service programs. “Some think that moral injury is the same thing as PTSD,” added Brock. “While they can share some symptoms, they’re very different conditions and treating moral injury the same can actually add to the emotional trauma.” Post-traumatic stress disorder is fear-based, moral injury is not. PTSD protocols can involve talking about and reliving the traumatic incident in a safe environment to defuse the fear. The same therapy used for moral injury can actually aggravate the problem.

Anyone who works with marginalized, at-risk populations have probably seen the empty stare that can be a symptom of moral injury. Moral injury can result in carrying unprocessed grief and guilt through life. “Moral injury is a broken spirit, not a disorder or psychiatric condition, though it profoundly effects mental health,” Brock continued.

A noted theologian, Brock was the founding director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University where she was also a research professor of theology and culture. She is co-author of “Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War;” and “Proverbs and Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering and the Search for What Saves Us.” She is a leading national expert on moral injury in combat veterans and has offered trainings for Veterans Affairs mental health providers; professional chaplains and for veterans and their families.

Under the direction of Brock, Volunteers of America launched a book last year, “The Momentum of Hope.” The book is a compilation of VOA stories from the organization’s contacts, clients and employees who have suffered moral injury. Contributors include the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Meryl Comer, co-founder of Women Against Alzheimer’s; Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, chair of the Ferguson Commission; and Kim Campbell, widow of Glen Campbell. There are also stories from veterans and Volunteers of America clients, employees and caregivers.

“Our hope is that people will read ‘The Momentum of Hope’, learn about moral injury and those who have so generously shared their stories in dealing with the condition. The most important message of the book is the resilience of the human spirt,” said Brock.

Learn more about Volunteers of America’s Shay Moral Injury Center and the organization’s work in moral injury.

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About Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health care, Volunteers of America helps almost 1.5 million people in over 400 communities. We offer a variety of services for older Americans, in particular, that allow them to maintain their independence and quality of life – everything from an occasional helping hand to full-time care. Our work touches the mind, body, heart and ultimately the spirit of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services.