Fireworks – Fun or Frightening?

Fireworks are a big deal in America, especially during Independence Day and the new year, but people will often unexpectedly set those explosives off any time of the year for any reason.

Such explosives affect those who have served in the military and those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle greatly with feeling safe, even in their own homes. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Licensed Professional Counselor and Air Force Chaplain Amelia Barton specializes in PTSD work and combat trauma.

As a member of the Air Force, Barton spoke first hand about the issue.  “Just because you’ve been in combat doesn’t mean you have PTSD,” she said.

When explosives are shot off, expected or not, Barton explained that it is important for her patients to have safety plans in place for when triggers do occur. 

She said she has her patients ask the question, “So if you do hear fireworks, who’s going to be the person that you’re on call to help calm me down? Where are you going to go if you’re driving and you see or you hear fireworks? Are you going to pull into a parking lot, or can you call somebody?”

She said that these safety plans that are put into place usually look like lists with around 10 people and their contact information, so if one person can’t answer, there is always a backup.

Barton said, “because we commit to those people ahead of time, they know to be watching out.”

Some other coping tools for these explosives are listening to calming music, white noise machines or audiobooks to allow their minds to focus on something else.

During times like Independence Day, she explained that often times, veterans make sure to be around other veterans, in order to have people who understand what each other is going through at that time. 

Barton also explained that while some veterans do struggle with the effects of PTSD, they still want regular civilians to be able to enjoy Independence day for what it is. After all, freedom and celebration is what they fought for. 

She said that the end goal for her patients is to understand their diagnosis and be able to tackle triggers when they come up.