For most Americans, Independence Day is a time for celebration, characterized by fireworks, barbecues, music and entertainment. However, for those veterans affected by PTSD, fireworks can trigger a range of negative reactions - some of which may cause physical and/or mental harm.
By knowing more about how PTSD affects our veterans, we can take steps to be more mindful of how our actions this Independence Day affects them.
What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless.
Symptoms of PTSD
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), PTSD is usually characterized by three main types of symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma
- Increased difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered
How You Can Help Veterans Who Have PTSD
The main treatments for veterans with PTSD include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
This July 4th, we can do our part to be respectful to veterans who have PTSD with some of the following suggestions.
#1 - Let veterans know if you’re planning a fireworks display.
If you have a next-door neighbor who happens to be a veteran, you don’t necessarily have to abandon your plans to celebrate. However, the courteous thing to do is let him/her know ahead of time when you plan to set of fireworks.
#2 - Be specific and deliberate with your time frame.
Keep in mind that veterans have fought for our country. Hearing unplanned fireworks can bring back painful memories or trigger a negative reaction from a veteran’s time in combat.
If you plan to use fireworks, plan to be deliberate about the time frame. Let your fellow veterans know so that it won’t come as a complete surprise.
Be respectful, and avoid setting off fireworks in the middle of the night or during hours when most people would be sleeping.
#3 - Spread awareness.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that PTSD affects:
- More than 30 percent of Vietnam veterans
- As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
- More than 10 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan
- Roughly 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans
Take the time to talk to the veterans in your community. By keeping open lines of communication, we can gain a better understanding of what our veterans are going through and be more proactive in our approach to celebrating the holidays.