Salem psychologist shares tips to help veterans cope with PTSD during 4th of July holiday

The loud booms of fireworks can be triggering for some veterans

ROANOKE, Va. – Many families may be eager to see firework shows to celebrate the Fourth of July, but the festive explosions can be troubling for some of our American heroes.

For some families, it’s a tradition to hear the loud booms of fireworks as they light up the sky on July 4, but for some veterans, it can be triggering.

“We’ve actually had to call the cops a few times,” Eric Hage said. “It gets so bad in our neighborhood. A lot of times it’s just feeling those compressions and those loud booms and flashes. It will trigger you, so you have to go hide basically.”

For the past 30 years, Eric Hage has served in the U.S. Army Reserve, 10 of them active duty. Ever since his first tour in Iraq in 2006, Hage avoids fireworks at all costs.

“By doing that it excludes me from some things,” he said. “But it’s ok because they don’t understand everything that I do.”

Hage turns to the VFW Post 1264 for help as the center offers a variety of resources for American defenders.

The Salem VA Medical Center also gets a few extra calls over the holiday weekend.

Dr. Sarah Voss Horrell is a psychologist at the medical center and works daily with veterans struggling with PTSD. She suggests that veterans use noise-canceling headphones and control their breathing to lower anxiety.

“Usually, the best thing we recommend is for people to slow their breathing down,” she said. “We tend to kind of hyperventilate when we get panicky. So we teach people how to slow their exhale.”

She also advises people to try cognitive behavioral therapies to help reduce symptoms. Before igniting fireworks, Hage and Horrell both say be courteous and let neighbors know ahead of time.

If you or someone you know needs help call the National Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8455. Horrell also suggests that you review information from the National Center for PTSD to learn more about symptoms and effective treatments.

About the Author

Alexus joined 10 News in October 2020.

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