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Montana VA: Remember veterans before setting off NYE fireworks

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Posted at 3:11 PM, Dec 30, 2022

HELENA — It's out with the old and in with the new, but before you set off any fireworks this New Year's Eve, the Montana VA Health Care System encourages all Montanans and non-veterans to consider veterans and the impacts of fireworks on people with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to a release, many people are not aware that a New Year’s celebration could affect others, and a conversation is the simplest way to start that awareness and support people with PTSD.

“Any celebration that includes fireworks can create be a difficult time for our nation’s heroes because fireworks create sights, sounds and smells that can activate flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety” explained Montana VA’s Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health Services, Dr. Robert Connell. “The sudden, sharp explosions of unexpected fireworks can create a state of hyperawareness and hypervigilance for Veterans with PTSD.”

“We encourage all Montanans, and especially non-veterans, who look to celebrate the holiday with fireworks to be conscientious and thoughtful of their veteran neighbors,” said Executive Director Dr. Judy Hayman. “Every Montanan can and should help veterans with PTSD avoid surprise fireworks. If you plan to light fireworks, be considerate and have a conversation with your neighbors and let them that you would like to set off fireworks. Fireworks are expected on New Year's Eve, but not at 2:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. in the days before and after.”

For veterans who have PTSD, these tips and resources can help:

  1. If fireworks impact you, reach out to your loved ones and support systems. Let them know that you will need them to check in and be there for you. 
  2. Veterans who receive their healthcare from Montana VA can call 406-447-6000 to speak with a counselor on coping mechanisms, anxiety, flashbacks, and any other mental health support.
  3. Veterans in crisis and those concerned about them can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 (press 1) to talk with qualified responders or visit veteranscrisisline.net [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com].
  4. Veterans experiencing PTSD can access a free app on their smartphones called PTSD Coach [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com], which includes coping mechanisms for PTSD.
  5. Earplugs, headphones, and white noise machines can help block out the noise of fireworks.
  6. Consider heading out of town to quieter places or where fireworks are not allowed.
  7. More information and resources on PTSD is available at https://ptsd.va.gov [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com].