ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — No Fourth of July celebration would be complete without the fireworks. Before setting off any during the weekend however, consider the military veterans suffering from PTSD living in your neighborhood.
Monroe County holds one of the highest veteran populations in all of western New York ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 former military members, according to Monroe County veteran affairs. Most members love the the holiday but if their neighbors aren’t careful, the sound of constant fireworks can cause damage to worsen their condition.
It’s not uncommon to be startled by unexpected sounds or surprised by the noise of a blown firework. For veterans however, the sense of fear doesn’t fade away — due to what they have seen while deployed.
“When that noise happened carnage came afterward, death happened and horrific scenes were experienced afterward,” Nick Stefanovic, Director of Monroe County Veteran Affairs Services 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 has the power to cause mental and physical damage to the body.
“Anytime anything remotely similar happens that system is all ready to go,” Behavioral Health Expert Roderick Castle said. “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 of that felt by everyday people; it becomes even greater when combined by sounds that mimic gun shots.
“My heart starts beating faster,” Stefanovic. “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 affair officials encourage communities to keep their firework show scheduled to a certain part of the night 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.”
“Use your brain,” Stefanovic said. “Nobody wants to hear M-80’s going off at 4 a.m. on July 10th because we don’t expect that and that’s when it can be damaging.”
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.