5 Ways to be Mindful of PTSD on Independence Day


by Katie Godshall, LCSW-BACS,
JFS Intern Program Supervisor

Many people associate the Fourth of July with hot dogs, hamburgers, family gatherings and fireworks. We talk about the sacrifices made to maintain a sense of freedom and then set out explosives well into the night and continue throughout the weekend.  While this may be fun and entertaining for those who are participating, the rocket’s red glare is most likely triggering veterans and others with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PSTD has been known by many different names throughout the ages such as railway spine, shell shock, soldier’s heart, battle fatigue, and so on.  Regardless of the name, the symptoms are often the same: hyper-awareness, nightmares/night terrors, flashbacks, irritability/agitation, mistrust, severe anxiety, isolation, and depression (this is not an exhaustive list).  The United States has been engaged in the longest war of the country’s history—leading to more deployments and more exposure to trauma.

One of the most difficult issues surrounding PTSD today is that it is an invisible wound of war.  It can be hard to know what your neighbor, friend, spouse or co-worker is experiencing on a daily basis.  So this Fourth of July, be mindful of those who may have PTSD. Here are some helpful tips on how to safely celebrate Independence Day:


  1. Schedule a time for the beginning and end of fireworks. Share this information with your neighbors.
  2. Be courteous and use fireworks only when you say you will.
  3. Use sparklers instead of fireworks.
  4. Be understanding of those who choose to leave the party early.
  5. Agree to stay with them inside while the fireworks are on—watch a movie, listen to music, build a pillow fort to muffle the sounds; make it fun!

Wishing you all a Happy & Safe 4th of July!

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