A Preliminary Study for Exploring Different Sources of Guilt in a Sample of Veterans Who Sought Chaplaincy Services

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Limited research has suggested that experiencing guilt may contribute to the risk of suicidal behavior in some veteran populations. Using data collected by chaplains, this study compared the frequency with which 94 veterans with a history of suicide ideation experienced guilt relative to 670 veterans without a history of ideation. We then compared main sources of guilt reported by ideators and nonideators. Ideators reported experiencing guilt significantly more often than nonideators. No differences were noted for the source of guilt among those who reported frequently experiencing this emotion. Ideators with an infrequent experience of guilt significantly more often named life and the military as the main source of this emotion. Clinicians should be mindful of the need to appropriately assess for and address guilt among veterans at increased risk of suicide. A variety of sources, not limited only to military experiences, may contribute to a veteran’s sense of guilt.

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