VOA Announces Commitment to Moral Injury Research and Care with Times Square Event

Volunteers of America (VOA), Inc. announced its commitment to moral injury research and care on September 10, 2019 by unveiling a new campaign titled "The War Inside" in Times Square, coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day.

The campaign, created by Dallas-based agency The Richards Group, included a video on the NASDAQ and Reuters digital boards for the first 10 minutes of every hour on September 10. Around a dozen Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) staff also participated, including President and CEO, Tere Pettitt, answering questions from the public in Times Square throughout the day.

Print and online advertising also will run nationally following the launch.

Volunteers of America has characterized moral injury as “a war inside.” The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines moral injury as “a psychological harm resulting from either (1) acting, failing to prevent, or witnessing actions that violate an individual’s deepest values and principles, or from (2) betrayal by a trusted authority figure in a high-stakes situation.” While moral injury first emerged in research on military veterans, anyone who works in high-stakes situations or who has endured trauma can experience it.

The effects of moral injury are pervasive throughout society and contribute to homelessness, self-harm including suicide, rage, addiction, compulsive overwork and/or depression. Unlike some causes of distress, moral injury is not a mental illness. It is an existential crisis in identity and meaning because of devastating life circumstances and it can happen at any age. Fortunately, recovery is possible. Volunteers of America has stepped up to assist in the recovery for thousands suffering across the U.S.

“The first step in recovery of moral injury is recognition and understanding it,” said Rita Nakashima Brock, Ph.D., founding director of the Shay Moral Injury Center at Volunteers of America. The center is named for Jonathan Shay, a medical doctor and clinical psychiatrist best known for his work with post-traumatic stress disorder who first introduced the concept of moral injury. 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 as PTSD,” said Brock. “While they can share some symptoms, they’re very different conditions and treating moral injury the same as PTSD can actually worsen the condition.”

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 an author of multiple books on moral injury and is a leading national expert on moral injury in combat veterans.

“By introducing ‘The War Inside’ to the world through video, print and online advertising, Volunteers of America can help the public better understand moral injury,” explained Mike King, president and CEO of Volunteers of America. “Greater understanding of this condition will allow it to be addressed earlier and save lives.”

For more information on moral injury, read this article by VOA-GNY's VP Business Development & Program Services, Brian Bardell, or visit the Volunteers of America website.