Minnesota Veterans Medical Research and Education Foundation & Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation

Minnesota Veterans Medical Research and Education Foundation

At Bristol Myers Squibb, we are working to address significant unmet medical needs, including the mental health needs of our returning veterans.


Combat veterans typically identify issues of moral injury, ranging from failing to prevent harm to wounding or killing others, as more distressing and a higher priority for treatment than threats to their own life or physical injury. Surprisingly, most Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatments do not generally address those issues. A key strategy for getting returning veterans to begin treatment for PTSD is to develop alternative treatment options that they are more willing to use. For example, research tell us that soldiers and veterans are more apt to seek spiritual support from chaplains than from traditional mental health providers because of the stigma associated with conventional mental health services.


Building Spiritual Strength (BSS) is an eight-session interfaith, manualized, spiritually integrated group intervention for trauma survivors, developed primarily with combat veterans in mind. Pastoral counselors are specially trained to implement and facilitate the process. The project will recruit 150 veterans with PTSD from the Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area to participate in the eight-week intervention, during which they will receive mental health services from pastoral counselors in a non-stigmatizing community setting. At the end of the study, participants’ PTSD symptoms and their level of spiritual distress/moral injury will be reassessed. The BSS model addresses the need for outreach to veterans who won’t use conventional mental healthcare. It will also create a low-cost, sustainable alternative option for mental healthcare for veterans.

Project Leader

Jeanette Irene Harris, Ph.D, Jeanette.Harris2@va.gov


  • Minnesota Veterans Administration Hospital