Keep Your Neighbors with PTSD in Mind This Fourth of July

And also, those furry, four-legged friends!

July 3, 2018
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Fourth of July is always celebrated with a bang, especially in Chicago neighborhoods. 

While most folks enjoy seeing the bright and glittering colors illuminate the sky, we have to remember that not everyone is so fond of fireworks as we might be. 

For veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS), fireworks can be the stuff of nightmares. The loud sounds and flashes of light often bring up combat memories and trigger panic and anxiety attacks. 

To help with this annual problem, Military with PTSD started the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign, as a way to help educate the public on the effects fireworks have on veterans dealing with PTS.    

“On Fourth of July, fireworks are expected,” says Shawn J. Gourley, Executive Director, Military with PTSD.  “It’s the veteran’s responsibility on that date to get themselves prepared or get themselves in a place where they can deal with the fireworks at hand. 

But we all know that 4th of July isn't just a one day holiday. People get too "firework happy" as I like to call it and will set them up on days leading up and directly after.

Gourley advises giving veteran neighbors a "heads up." It will only take you a second to say "hey, I'm lighting some fireworks," but it can really help them out. 

“We don’t want to stop fireworks,” Gourley says, “No veteran who served this country would want anyone to stop setting off fireworks. It’s the unexpected fireworks that get to them. The big fireworks shows don’t seem to bother them as much because they know what’s coming.”

Here are a few suggestions to help minimize the effects of fireworks on veterans in your neighborhood:

- Consider public firework displays instead of having one in your neighborhood

- Talk to veterans in your area and find out if there are specific fireworks that are upsetting

- Let your neighbors know when and where you’ll set off fireworks and about how long you think it will last

-  Refrain from setting fireworks off at unexpected times during the day

- Find a location that is least likely to disturb vets

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As for pets, owners should take necessary precautions to help them feel safe and comfortable. Pets aren't too fond of 4th of July and the loud popping noises can scare and send event he most mild-mannered pets into a frenzy. 

Some things to consider to keep your pet calm:

- Don’t take your pet to parades or fireworks displays or leave your pet in the car at a fireworks show.

- Don’t leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. Pets that normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, when fearful. This could put them at risk of injury or death.

- Keep pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Remove any fragile items as pets may become destructive. 

- Find a pet sitter if you’re spending the day away from home.

- Provide a safe place. Pets may seek out a small den-like place, such as a crate if they are fearful or stressed. 

- License and microchip your pet. Having identification will increase the likelihood that your pet will be returned to you if lost.

- Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly.

- Use a leash or carrier when transporting your pet. If you must be outside with your pet, keep the pet on a leash or in a carrier.

- Talk to your veterinarian if you know your dog has anxiety.

- Invest in a Thunder shirt, which is an anxiety vest for pups. 

- Keep sparklers, glow sticks, charcoal, food scraps and kabob skewers away from curious pets.

- Animals found running at-large should be taken to your local animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.