PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — With the holiday weekend around the corner, veterans with PTSD struggle to be heard over the fireworks.
That is why UnityPoint Health issued guidance for how residents can help meet the needs and concerns of those who served their country. Veterans living with PTSD can have a hard time coping during the Fourth of July, especially since fireworks sometimes remind them of the battlefield.
Cody Maddock, Mental Health Therapist at UnityPoint Health, said checking in on your neighbors and their plans for the celebrations could help make the problem less severe.
“This might even give you a chance to get to know your neighbors better,” Maddock said.
“Ask if they’re planning on setting off fireworks. If so, when might that be? Asking, at least for a heads up or some compassionate use of their fireworks, so you have a chance to prepare. Fireworks can be startling for everyone, and if you suspect or know that a neighbor of yours struggles with PTSD, then please let them know when your fireworks are going to be. They might have some ideas on what might be helpful to make it a more enjoyable experience for them.”
Maddock explained how fireworks can trigger flashbacks for veterans during the celebrations.
“The sound can mirror a lot of experiences in combat,” Maddock said. “On top of that, just general triggers for PTSD is just that kind of startling experience and loud noises, big flashes of light, things you’re not expecting. That could cause anyone to jump a little bit.”
Maddock said a little bit of compassion can go a long way to help veterans feel heard.
“If you’re in that moment and you’re noticing someone who is having a tough time, maybe helping them leave that situation: getting to a safe place, maybe indoors, going inside for a few minutes, and giving them some space, maybe walking them through that, taking deep breaths. Remember this is a very heightened experience for them and deep breathing can calm them down. Get them something, maybe a glass of water to help physically calm them down.”
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