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  • Writer's pictureSarah Otto

Triggers during July

During the month of July comes the celebration of America’s independence. The Ohana Homefront Foundation wants to take time to honor our fallen, veteran, and active duty military, and the families and communities that support them, that have made this day possible.

For many of us, the fourth of July brings about happy feelings associated with fireworks, parades, grilling, etc. However, for some in the military community these celebrations can come with reminders of traumatic events and an increase in mental health symptoms. The loud noises associated with fireworks can activate the nervous system, causing physiological responses including hypervigilance, tensing of the muscles and defensive movements, startle responses. These responses have been reinforced through military training that is necessary for survival during service, but can become debilitating when this response no longer matches the environment (i.e., when a service member returns home and integrates into a normative daily life). Additionally, the loud noises and flashes can trigger flashbacks. For some servicemembers, it is not the scheduled fireworks displays that are the most anxiety provoking, but the randomized celebrations at people’s homes leading up to and after the holiday itself.

The most commonly reported symptoms that occur during the 4th of July include:

· Light and noise sensitivity

· Discomfort/uneasiness in crowded environment

· Engaging in excessive substance use in attempt to minimize reactivity

· Reactivity to light and noise associated with fireworks

· Social isolation during celebratory events

How can communities and family members help?

· Be mindful of veterans and active duty military in your community

· Use of sensory tools like noise cancelling headphones

· Open communication and planning surrounding social events and fireworks displays-knowing what to expect can significant reduce the experience of anxiety

If you have any questions or would like more ideas about how to help create a safe and fun experience for everyone during the 4th of July, contact the counseling department at:

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