The Fourth of July is a celebration of our nation, which often includes thanking our veterans and service members. But those celebrations — which often include fireworks — can act as stressors for those suffering from PTSD.
The Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System reminds community members that some veterans can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms – sometimes triggered by one of the most recognizable 4th of July traditions, fireworks displays – during the holiday, according to Dr. Joni Utley, a GCVHCS psychologist and the organization’s PTSD Clinic lead.
“The 4th of July can be a difficult time for our veterans as holidays commemorating national freedom and sacrifice understandably remind them of the most heroic and often traumatic moments of their own service to our nation,” she said.
Utley said that individuals planning on using fireworks during individual 4th of July celebrations are encouraged to contact veterans in their Gulf Coast area communities, an outreach which not only demonstrates an understanding of a veteran’s particular situation but can also serve to show an appreciation for their service.
According to Utley, with evidence-based PTSD treatments the GCVHCS PTSD clinic employees work with veterans, approaching triggering situations in a very specific and safe way to eventually work through and overcome these responses. She added that the VA has developed several useful apps to lead veterans through these coping skills: PTSD Coach, Virtual Hopebox and the VA Mindfulness app are all available for Veterans or caregivers suffering from PTSD or trauma-related symptoms.
The Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 70,000 veterans.