4th of July, fireworks and effects on PTSD

Bria Chatman- Fireworks and PTSD

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - For many families, the 4th of July is all about good food, family, and fireworks. For victims of gun violence and some veterans, celebratory fireworks can be a source of anxiety which could be heightened due to current ongoing events.

“Fireworks themselves are very stimulating. That’s the way I would like to describe,” says Dr. Josh Klapow with UAB’s School of Public Health. “Lots to see and lots to hear.”

Seeing and hearing fireworks can be exciting for some, but a trigger for others suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health conditions. These conditions paired with recent events and so many changes could have a strong impact.

“Those heightened levels of stress can make them worse. It can make what we call the hyper vigilance worse. The feeling more on edge worse, " says Dr. Klapow. “The hyper-startle response, that kind of knee jerk, as soon as you hear something you feel like you need to duck, that can be worse as well.”

Detective Larry Foster with the Birmingham Police Department, served as a sergeant in the Army for over 23 years, and he still deals with the effects of PTSD.

“If you’re by yourself, it’s hard because if you get back and you can’t have something to pull you back from those thoughts, you could go really really bad, " says Det. Foster.

What should you do If you are someone coping with one of these conditions? Invest in noise cancelling headphones, try to have a conversation with your neighbors or family members about their plans for the holiday. Try to speak up now and make arrangements to better prepare yourself.

How can you be supportive and more understanding to your neighbor or loved one?

“If you’re going to do it, could you go to the park and do it? Or could you go maybe to an empty lot where you’re not in the neighborhood?” says Det. Foster. “Because you don’t know who’s been where or who’s dealing with things. Just try to be mindful of your neighbor.”

For tips on how to cope or help someone struggling with mental illness, please contact the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. There’s also a line you can text from your cell phone at 741741 to receive free crisis counseling.

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