Moral Injury and Suicide Ideation among Combat Veterans: The Moderating Role of Self-Disclosure

Yossi Levi-Belz, Sharon Shemesh, Gadi Zerach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Modern warfare in a civilian setting may expose combatants to severe moral challenges. Whereas most of these challenges are handled effectively, some potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) may have deleterious psychological effects on the combatants, such as suicide ideation (SI). Self-disclosure, which includes sharing distressing thoughts and emotions, has been recognized as a protective factor against SI in the aftermath of stressful events. The current study is the first to examine the moderating role of self-disclosure in the relationship between PMIE exposure and SI among combat veterans. Method: A sample of 190 recently discharged Israeli combat veterans completed validated self-report questionnaires measuring combat exposure, PMIEs, depressive symptoms, SI, and self-disclosure in a crosssectional design study. Results: PMIE dimensions and self-disclosure significantly contributed to current SI. Notably, the moderating model indicated that self-disclosure moderated the link between PMIE-Self and current SI, as PMIE-Self and current SI demonstrated a stronger association among veterans with low self-disclosure than among those with high self-disclosure. Limitations: Cross-sectional design of volunteers, the findings may not be directly generalizable to veterans population. Conclusion: Self-disclosure, as a factor promoting a sense of belongingness, interpersonal bonding, and support, might diminish SI risk following PMIE exposure. Various mechanisms accounting for these associations are suggested, and the clinical implications of these interactions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023


  • combatant
  • moral injury
  • self-disclosure
  • suicide
  • veterans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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