The idea of the spirit is one of the oldest and most complicated concepts we have as humans. Pretty much every religion, culture and belief system has at its core the idea of a spirit or a nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character. It can also sometimes be called the soul. Underpinning this for many billions of people is a belief that there is a higher, guiding force or presence in the world that the spirit seeks to have knowledge of.

The spirit can be thought of in many ways:

  • The daily lived aspects of one’s faith in terms of values and commitments

  • The journey of self-transcendence

  • The depth dimension of all human existence

  • The quest for value and meaning

Ultimately a spiritual wound can occur because of something that happened to a veteran as a part of their service. It might have been something they saw or did or was done to them. This is a serious matter, don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you that it’s not. This spiritual wound effects those with a strong belief just as much as those whose belief is growing or perhaps even diminishing. For those with a strong belief the wound comes from not being able to understand what the God they have followed and worshiped perhaps for their whole life could do such a terrible thing to them or at least permit others to do it to them. For those with a growing faith it can shake the foundations of the path they are on. For those with a diminishing faith it just confirms why their belief may have been misplaced. For families and loved ones witnessing the suffering can be just as devastating not least of which it can also easily cause them to question their own beliefs.

For many people a crisis or faith or belief can be a significant contributor to mental illness.

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The factors that lead to a mental health issue are complicated and occur on many psychological, physical, social, cultural and spiritual levels. Treating mental illness is a serious business best left to properly accredited health professionals and we urge any veteran who has the slightest concern in this areas to seek help from their doctor or medical provider.

The idea that a veteran maybe suffering a spiritual wound as a result of their Defence service is hardly new.  Throughout recorded history Soldiers, Sailors or Airmen/women who have served in war or conflict how found themselves questioning their faith or spiritual beliefs based on events they have seen or participated in. In most cases it causes them to ask the following sorts of questions:

  • Why did God do this to me?

  • Was the event an act of God's will?

  • Why does God hurt the innocent?

  • Why doesn't God answer my prayers or, at least, send me a sign?

  • Will God forgive me for what I have done?

 Of course there may be many other questions but like the young soldier’s story on the front page, a veteran’s faith becomes clouded with questions of doubt, shame and guilt. It’s when these questions are left unanswered or are unsatisfactorily answered that some veterans may develop deeper issues, most often in concert with other mental health factors.