Advancing the understanding of a Veteran mental health Limbo through identity, existential concern, and moral injury concepts

Primary investigator: Postdoctoral researcher Jan Grimell (Department of Sociology, Uppsala University).

Funder:  Swedish Armed Forces’ Veterans Center.

Duration: October 2021 – February 2024.

Project description: It has long been acknowledged that military personnel are subjected to mental strain and struggle during and after military operations. This project addresses the lacuna of qualitative research that exists as far as Swedish veterans that develop mental health issues without fulfilling the criterions of a clinical diagnose such as PTSD.

The project addresses two major research questions:

  1. In what ways can we understand veterans who, due to military service and deployment, develop mental health issues but without fulfilling PTSD?
  2. In what ways do military identities, existential concerns, and moral injuries unfold over a longer period while facing such challenges?

The project consists of two interview studies.The first study is designed to explore veterans with mental health issues and sufferings who do not receive a clinical PTSD diagnose. A purposeful sample of thirty veterans will be recruited in collaboration with the veteran clinic located at Akademiska sjukhuset in Uppsala (known in Swedish as ‘veteranmottagningen’).

The second study is a continuation of a longitudinal project which was conducted between 2013 to 2016 with annual interviews in order to explore identity reconstruction among military personnel amid transition from military to civilian life. Among this sample of nineteen participants who took part in that study identify identity, existential, and moral issues as aspects that needed to be taken into account. A new round of interviews with these participants will be conducted within this project so that we have follow-up data about ten years after they were first interviewed.

The two studies within The Veteran Mental Health Limbo project have conceptual overlap regarding identity, existential concern, and moral injury. While the first study particularly investigates mental health issues that have not been clinically diagnosed, the second study offers a longitudinal perspective on this group of veterans.

The findings from the project will assist and support the Swedish Armed Forces’ Veterans Center in their understanding of this particular subgroup within the veteran population. The results could inform methods for veterans that may be developed in the future by this center, and could also be used in other clinical settings and by other stake holders who may offer services to this group.

Last modified: 2022-01-25