When you think about Independence Day, you often think about delicious food, family, and fireworks. However, for some, fireworks can be a source of stress, especially for those who suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. The unexpected loud noises can be a trigger for some. Although not every Veteran may be affected, many individuals are stepping up to raise awareness of those who might be.
In 2015, Kevin Rhoades, a Marine Veteran who has PTSD, planted a sign outside his home: “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please Be Courteous with Fireworks.” Rhoades said in an interview, “It’s not that I don’t want people to have fun. On the Fourth of July I’m going to pop my own fireworks. But when you get woken up at two, three o’clock in the morning, it brings back those memories.”
Many Marines with PTSD can mentally prepare for planned events, like national holidays. But for those like Rhoades, the unexpected rat-a-tat of firecrackers could bring them back to the battlefield and set them on edge. Rhoades added that the idea behind the signs is not to stop fireworks, but to have a conversation about the issue, and to give him and others ample time to prepare.
Shawn Gourley, the co-founder of the nonprofit Military with PTSD, notes that some people may be concerned about bringing up the issue because it may infringe on others’ fun, or because of the stigma that might surround PTSD. However, she encourages them to move forward if they’re comfortable: most people simply aren’t aware that their celebration could be affecting others, and conversations help start that awareness. She adds that parties should have both individual and community meetings about the topic, so that everyone can understand that fireworks are okay — when both parties can agree on to limits on when and where they can be used.
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