How fireworks impact veterans battling PTSD

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Fireworks are the staple of most Fourth of July celebrations. With the holiday soon approaching, veterans who struggle with PTSD have to prepare for the triggers associated with fireworks.

For most, the sights and sounds of fireworks represent celebration and freedom, but for veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder, the loud noises and flashing lights can trigger anxiety, panic attacks and sleep deprivation.

Michael Testerman is an Army veteran who suffers from a mild case of PTSD. He describes it as always feeling on edge, or hyper-vigilant.

“Any little noise and stuff, you’re hyper-vigilant. You’re looking to see where it is, where it’s coming from, what’s going on. In the long run, it puts you in that state of mind constantly, you’re always waiting on the next one, where is it coming from, who’s going to do it, is it friendly is it foe. So it’s hard to come back out and relax,” Testerman said.

Ben Harrington, the CEO of the Mental Health association of East Tennessee says the symptoms of PTSD can be triggered by many different things.

“Folks need to realize that PTSD is a real and diagnosable mental health condition. It might be that the person is just very uncomfortable with people or situations that they were normally comfortable with because of the traumatic event,” Harrington said.

Michael Testerman says the fireworks don’t bother him as much anymore, but there are other veterans who have more severe cases and need their neighbors to be more aware and courteous during the holiday.

“If you notice a veteran, notice a guy in a vest, or with a hat on that’s a veteran around you, be aware of what you’re doing. Be a little more courteous,” Testerman said.

Ben Harrington suggests for veterans to alert their neighbors if they suffer from PTSD. He says sometimes simply letting them know how the noises affect your mental health can deter them from shooting fireworks.

Mental Health and Veteran Resources

If you or a loved one is battling PTSD or other mental health issues, there are resources available in the Knoxville area as well as statewide:

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