Fireworks can trigger PTSD

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The pops and bangs of fireworks on the 4th of July are a way many people choose to celebrate America’s independence. But for some people, it can trigger frightening memories of combat.

Vietnam War Veteran Everett Carter recalls a 4th of July 45 years ago:

“I never forget it because some kids in the neighborhood fired off some firecrackers and fireworks late in the afternoon, and it brought it all back,” Carter remembers. “I actually ended up trying to get underneath the couch. Until I realized I was at home and everything was okay.”

Nearly five decades later he has learned to cope with his PTSD, but it’s never fully gone away.

“I still have occurrences, and that’s not to say I’m crazy or anything of that nature, but it’s just the experiences,” said Carter.

WHNT News 19 spoke with Stan Long, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who has worked with patients suffering from PTSD.

“It’s frightening. They are reliving an event that was traumatic and that was life threatening, that even for a split second they are right back in that situation,” Long explains.

Anything can be a trigger, and it’s different for each person. A door slamming, a car back firing, and, of course, fireworks.

Not every veteran will be bothered by the patriotic display, but 30% of Vietnam War veterans, and 11-20% of veterans from the wars Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from PTSD. They could live on your street, or in your neighborhood.

If you plan to set off fireworks, Long says courtesy can be significant.

“If you come to me and say ‘we’re going to be shooting fireworks and we want you to be aware of it,’ that gives me the choice to either stay where I am and prepare for the event, or just going somewhere else,” said Long.

Giving a veteran, who may suffer from PTSD, that choice can be empowering. If they ask you not to set off fireworks, consider foregoing the display. It could cause them to relive a traumatic event.


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