Many firework celebrations have been cancelled for this year due to COVID-19. However, there are still fireworks happening around many neighborhoods and cities. Every year, July can be a triggering time for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition develops in some people after they witness gun violence or can develop in someone who has served in the military.
PTSD can show up differently in people. Especially during the Fourth of July, it’s important to be there for veterans. The noise of the fireworks can be very triggering for some. The loud noise of the fireworks can be triggering to traumatic memories, but typically it is the unpredictability of the explosion that activates the nervous system. Many veterans can prepare for a planned community celebration, but the unexpected fireworks around the fourth can be triggering for veterans.
Some common symptoms experienced around the Fourth of July may include:
-Light sensitivity to fireworks and sparklers
-Uneasiness or feeling on edge in crowds
-Feeling jumpier or easily startled
-Feeling distant or cutoff from friends and families during celebrations
If you are someone who suffers from PTSD here are some tips to help you this holiday season:
Reach out to your neighbors and ask them to let you know if they plan to set off fireworks. By doing this you can avoid being caught off guard by the anticipating noise. If you do not feel comfortable talking with your neighbors, have a trusted friend or loved one reach out instead. You can encourage them to celebrate the holiday, but just tell them it would help you to know when they expect to set off their fireworks.
Practice relaxation techniques. Control your breathing by taking long, slow breathes, focusing on exhalation of each breath. By doing this, you will distract your mind and calm your nervous system.
If you’re with other people, let them know what you’re feeling so they can help you work through it. Seek support from loved ones and let them know you need help finding a distraction, or an activity to engage in.
There are also apps equipped with tools and information to assist someone with managing PTSD-related symptoms. Here is a full list of mental health apps.
It’s important to remember feeling stressed is a normal response to unusual events or conditions you have experienced. Talk to friends, family members, other veterans, or counselors about your experiences. Discussing the events may help you process and work through your reactions. It’s important to remember to be patient with yourself. Recurring thoughts, or upsetting memories, and restlessness can be part of your experience.
If you are struggling with PTSD and want confidential guidance, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHMSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Jill Haupts, Outreach Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Jill Haupts is the Outreach Coordinator at The Kim Foundation. She received her bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services from Iowa State University in 2016. Jill joined the Kim Foundation in January coming from Des Moines, Iowa. Her previous experience includes volunteer recruitment and fundraising, as well as experience coordinating services and providing resources to adults who have a mental health diagnosis. Jill’s role in the foundation is coordinating event logistics, presenting and attending community fairs, as well as volunteer coordination and recruitment. She enjoys working in the nonprofit field and has a passion for advocacy and helping others.