How to Be a Considerate Neighbor This 4th of July: PTSD, Neurodivergency, and Fireworks

The Ohana Homefront Foundation wants to take time to honor our fallen, veteran, and active duty military, and the families and communities that support them on this Fourth of July.


For many of us, fireworks, parades, grilling bring us a sense of excitement. However, for some in the military community these celebrations can come with reminders of traumatic events and an increase in mental health symptoms.


Loud noises associated with fireworks can activate the nervous system, causing physiological responses including hyper-vigilance, tensing of the muscles and defensive movements, startle responses. These responses have been reinforced through military training that is necessary for survival during service, but can become debilitating when this response no longer matches the environment (i.e., when a service member returns home and integrates into a normative daily life).


Additionally, the loud noises and flashes can trigger flashbacks. For some service members, it is not the scheduled fireworks displays that are the most anxiety provoking, but the randomized celebrations at people’s homes leading up to the holiday, and the following days after.


The most commonly reported symptoms that occur during the 4th of July include:

  • Light and noise sensitivity Discomfort/uneasiness in crowded environment

  • Engaging in excessive substance use in attempt to minimize reactivity

  • Reactivity to light and noise associated with fireworks

  • Social isolation during celebratory events


We want everyone in our communities to feel included and safe during these celebrations...


So, how can communities and family members help?

  • Be mindful of veterans and active duty military in your community

  • Use or offer sensory tools like noise cancelling headphones

  • Open communication and planning surrounding social events and fireworks displays-knowing what to expect can significant reduce the experience of anxiety


If you have any questions or would like more ideas about how to help create a safe and fun experience for everyone during the 4th of July, contact the counseling department at:


Director@ohfcounseling.org


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