The Fourth of July can harm people, veterans with PTSD

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For many people, the Fourth of July holiday is bigger and better this year after last year’s pandemic put a stop to many celebrations. But as firework shows get underway Sunday evening, there is a group of people to be mindful of.

One veteran says he wants the community to celebrate the Fourth of July but he also wants to encourage people to be aware of those with PTSD as the loud noises can trigger traumatic memories.

For some families, it’s a tradition to hear the loud booms of fireworks on July 4. But for others, it can be a day full of stress and anxiety.

“Feel as though it is an explosion that they might have experienced when they were in the service and it takes them back to those experiencing that they had back then and it can be kind of retraumatizing,” said Robert Campbell with the Birmingham Department of Veteran Affairs.

“Hearing that when you’re not expecting, it sets off that alarm and makes you wonder what’s going on but it’s July 4th, we know it’s going to happen, and we expect it,” said Jake, a Birmingham veteran.

Jake spent 14 years in the army. He says PTSD can be triggered by the sights, sounds and even smells of fireworks.

“Our veterans, when they would go overseas and go to places where our country needed them, we would be over there a year, 18 months, and when you’re hearing that every day it means something to you, it’s an alert on now what’s going on,” said Jake.

Jake’s not saying to stop the patriotic festivities, but keep your veterans and neighbors in mind when you celebrate.

“Hey in my community, in my neighborhood, let’s make a plan, we are going to set them off between six and nine o’clock, if you as a person regardless of your background go outside and see a show, but if you don’t then that’s a great time to close the door, window, and turn on a movie,” said Jake.

“It’s better if we can set up a location that is easily able to leave the area if they need to or give them noise-canceling headphones that can help so they can still watch the display but the noise won’t bother them as much,” said Campbell.

The Birmingham VA also shared that there is a crisis line available for veterans that need someone to talk to. It can be reached at (800) 273-8255, and it’s available 24/7.

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