Be Courteous with Fireworks this 4th of July – Your Fireworks Can Sound Just Like Combat
— Military With PTSD (@MilitarywPTSD) June 20, 2015
As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we need to be respectful of the men and women that have spent parts of their lives in service to the nation.The explosion of fireworks can seem like summer fun to many, but they can trigger serious PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms in combat veterans.
The organization Military with PTSD says on their website that, “It is Independence day, a day of celebrating and Fireworks are a long-standing tradition. No veteran who served this country wants to stop Fireworks or take away anyone’s freedom that we served to protect. So please enjoy yourself and set off all the Fireworks you want!” But, they ask for a “courteous heads up” around the 4th, “Many of us veterans are fine with fireworks when we know they are coming, many of us would probably come out and join you. The problem is with the unexpected fireworks, the ones we don’t know are coming.”
Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Director of the PTSD program at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System says that there can be a range of reactions to fireworks, “…from a startle to a full-blown anxiety attack and flashback of combat.” Dr Fine added, “It’s upsetting to most Veterans with PTSD. It’s something they try to avoid.”
“The flash of light, firecrackers, can sound to them like mortar attacks,” says Clinical Psychologist Dr. Wendy Katz who treats many Veterans with PTSD who dread the Fourth.
Here are some recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs:
Families can help ease the anxiety, said Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michael Kramer, a PTSD specialist at VANYHHS. If a Veteran has a strong negative reaction, he can have the support of his family and friends by anticipating a possible reaction and preparing for it. For example, if it is discussed, they can plan on where they will stand when they go out, make a point to stay close to exits and come up with a back-up plan if the Veteran has a bad reaction.” Dr. Kramer also recommended that patients avoid going out to see fireworks “if they predictably have strong negative reactions to fireworks, loud noises, and crowds.”
In this video Seth Maier, Veterans Representative from Worksource Spokane in Washington state talks about the effects fireworks can have.
Be aware of what’s going when celebrating this Fourth of July.