What’s so bad about a little patriotic celebration?
One of the students in a recent course I was teaching on responding to disaster, trauma, and abuse identified himself as a veteran and highlighted the need to be mindful of our neighbors on holidays like this. He said that fireworks contribute to Independence Day being one of the most difficult days of the year for veterans. He estimated that upwards of 40% of the thousands of recently discharged men and women in the battalions closest to his are struggling with isolation, alcohol/substance abuse, and often posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Official estimates tend to be lower, but are still troubling.
It’s no secret that the men and women who serve in our armed forces risk much more than their physical well-being when they put themselves in harm’s way. The US. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that approximately 11-15% of U.S. military veterans experience PTSD in a given year, with an estimated 30% of Vietnam veterans experiencing the debilitating illness at some point in their lifetime. These numbers are well above the national averages for PTSD in the general population.
How can we help out today?
With so many combat veterans experiencing PTSD and likely to be triggered by the festivities around the 4th of July holiday, particularly exploding fireworks, a non-profit group called Military with PTSD has been distributing signs this Independence Day season to help veterans communicate their needs with neighbors. The signs notify neighbors that a combat veteran lives in their area and asks for courtesy when setting off fireworks.
The idea is not to spoil anyone’s celebration, but simply to ask for a courtesy notification when planning to set off fireworks. If veterans are able to mentally prepare for the explosions rather than being surprised/startled they are much less likely to be triggered and may even choose to participate in the celebration. If you live near a veteran and plan to celebrate with fireworks, take a moment to let them know ahead of time and thank them for their service. They’ll appreciate both gestures and everyone can have a good time this holiday season.
If you or someone you know is dealing with symptoms of PTSD (reliving a traumatic event, emotional numbing, unhealthy drinking or drug use, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, avoiding situations that could trigger a trauma-related response), give me a call to see how I can assist. I’d be happy to help you to determine how best to make progress through individual or group therapy, or referrals to additional services.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July!
Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.