A qualitative analysis of the experience and impact of killing in hand-to-hand combat
Jensen, P.R.; Simpson, D.
Journal of Traumatic Stress 27(4): 468-473
A growing body of research suggests that killing during military combat is closely associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a number of other adverse mental health related conditions (e.g., dissociative experiences, violent behavior, functional impairment). This article provides first-person perspectives on the experiences and impact of killing by service members with the goal of expanding our understanding of the impact of taking a life during war. In audio-recorded phenomenological interviews, 9 service members described their experiences and the subsequent impact of killing during hand-to-hand combat. A description, supported by participant quotations, was constructed to represent the participants' experiences. Results suggest the experience and aftermath of taking a life in hand-to-hand combat was disturbing, psychologically stressful, and necessitated some form of coping after the event. Service members who killed in hand-to-hand combat viewed their actions as necessary to preserve their life and that killing in hand-to-hand combat was more emotionally taxing than killing by shooting. Our findings may help to improve providers' understanding of service members' first-person experiences of killing in hand-to-hand combat and thus provide the basis for the development of a connected and genuine relationship with such military clients.