KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While many are excited to celebrate the nation during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, we always need to keep in mind those who served our country who experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tony Weaver from the McNabb Center shares why Independence Day can be difficult for men and women who now battle PTSD after being in the military.
Lori Tucker: First of all, we want to start by thanking you for your service and, also how you now help others who have sacrificed so much and now do suffer from PTSD.
For those who may not know, it’s a pretty common term, but let’s talk about what it is.
Tony Weaver: PTSD is a mental health condition that is a result of experiencing some kind of trauma. It’s characterized by usually anxiety, depression, intrusive memories of that event, or those events, the trauma – traumatic events, avoidant behavior. Meaning, avoiding circumstances, certain circumstances that could remind them of the events, such as sights, smells, sounds, noises, bright lights, and things like that. It can also have accompanying nightmares, night terrors, even flashbacks so.
Lori Tucker: Absolutely very, very difficult to deal with, and so that’s why awareness on the part of all of us is so important. We need to think about other people, and that’s where fireworks come in. So, let’s talk about that.
Tony Weaver: One good thing is we know that the 4th of July is up ahead of us so we can mentally prepare for that, and I tell people just to do that to be expecting fireworks again, large crowds, and the bright lights.
Also, some folks who really don’t do well in those environments, they can always stay home, wear noise-canceling headphones.
I’m a big advocate of breathing. Research shows that if we do our breathing and control breathing, we can really control the release of those two chemicals, cortisol and adrenaline. So breathing is big going into a stressful environment.
Lori Tucker: What about you mentioned the noise-canceling headphones, and exercises, but say your next-door neighbors are just shooting off the fireworks and you just can’t deal with it. Is there a good way to hand all that? What do you suggest?
Tony Weaver: Again, being prepared is huge, not being caught off guard, Not being blindsided.
I think that if we do a mental formation so to speak days in advance, we can usually press through those things. But if you need to leave then go somewhere else.
It’s good also for neighbors to be mindful of those who they may be aware of that have PTSD or some kind of traumatic symptoms, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid that.
Lori Tucker: And it’s hard to talk about, but that’s kind of where I was going with this trying to take the stigma away and going, hey this is who I am.
Tony Weaver: So, we want to destigmatize mental health, in particular PTSD, and let people know that there are effective treatments out there. They don’t have to suffer in silence and just think that they have to deal with the rest of their lives because there’s effective treatments available.