ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — No Fourth of July celebration would be complete without fireworks. Before setting them off this summer, consider the effect on people who live with post-traumatic stress. For example, abuse survivors are often affected, and so are military veterans living in your neighborhood.
“Use your brain,” said Nick Stefanovic, the director of Monroe County Veteran Affairs Services. “Nobody wants to hear M-80’s going off at 4 a.m. on July 10, because we don’t expect that. And that’s when it can be damaging.”
Monroe County has among the highest veteran populations in New York, ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 former military members, according to veteran affairs. While most service members do love the holiday, if their neighbors aren’t careful, the constant sound can damage and worsen their condition.
It’s not uncommon to be startled by unexpected sounds or surprised by the noise of a blown firework. PTSD means that this sense of fear doesn’t fade, owing to experiences in traumatic moments.
“When that noise happened, carnage came afterward. Death happened and horrific scenes were experienced afterward,” Stefanovic said. “It causes what is mostly known as psychosomatic symptoms.”
While some veterans are able to process the difference between gunfire and fireworks, their nervous system never loses its defense routine. This can cause mental anguish and physical damage to the body.
“Anytime anything remotely similar happens that system is all ready to go,” said Roderick Castle, behavioral health expert. “If you hear the pop doesn’t mean your adrenaline system didn’t just get jacked up.”
The sensation of pain for those diagnosed with PTSD is greater than that felt by everyday people. It grows alongside what sounds like gunshots. “My heart starts beating faster,” Stefanovic says. “My blood pressure goes up. I start sweating. I become very uncomfortable and agitated, and that can last for a long time afterward.”
Medical experts and veteran affairs officials encourage communities to keep firework shows scheduled to a precise schedule to avoid catching those vulnerable off-guard. “Get to know their likes and dislikes or needs,” Castle said. “Let’s all work together to keep a safe space so we can enjoy the Fourth of July and not worry about it.”
This behavior may setback any veteran who has come a long way from treatments like substance abuse or suicidal thoughts due to PTSD. When speaking with a veteran on this matter, medical experts urge people to be respectful and open-minded as negative interactions can lead to them not speaking out when in need.