Independence Day Not So Celebratory for All Americans

Mental health symptoms such as noise sensitivity can make a nightmare of the holiday.

ShelterCare Tips for 4th of July Mental HealthIn the weeks leading up to the 4th of July you may see yard signs reading “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” The signs are part of the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign created by the nonprofit Military With PTSD. The campaign aims to educate the public on the triggering effects of fireworks on veterans and others experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that up to 30% of combat veterans experience symptoms of PTSD in a given year. Traumatic experiences are not limited to soldiers, however. The VA also reports that:

  • Around 8 million adults will experience symptoms of PTSD this year.
  • About 10% of women develop PTSD some time in their lives compared with about 4% of men.

Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Director of the PTSD program at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System says that reactions to fireworks “can range from a startle to a full-blown anxiety attack and flashback of combat.”

Symptoms of mental health challenges often include increased sensitivity to sound. Loud noises can complicate or add to other symptoms creating a domino or snowball effect that can lead to traumatic experiences and even dangerous behavior.

Individuals with autism can become particularly overwhelmed by excessive noise. A common method of self-calming used by people with autism includes creating pressure or increasing weight on the body by making a bed extra-tight or having a friend stack pillows on their back.

A person with Alzheimer’s can be caught off-guard by the holiday noise. The unexplained sounds of explosions can produce intense fear and anxiety in someone living alone. Friends, family members and/or care-givers can ease fears by offering explanations.

A little preparation for Independence Day can make a world of difference for someone with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Dementia or PTSD. Our interdependence and the joy that we take in all people is definitely cause for celebration this 4th of July.

Tips for managing noise sensitivity during Independence Day celebrations:

  • Wear noise reduction headphones or earplugs
  • Listen to white noise or turn up the TV. Videos featuring white noise and calming sounds can be found on Youtube.
  • Display a yard sign notifying neighbors that inhabitants experience noise sensitivity. sells signs for war veterans.
  • Surround yourself with family or friends.
  • Prepare a game plan for reactions.
  • Have comfort food or items, including favorite blankets, on hand.
  • Help kids prepare with sparklers or videos of fireworks shows.
  • Move repetitively or use a rocking chair to induce calm.
  • Practice positive self-talk.
  • Engage in an immersive activity such as a suspenseful movie or book.

Crisis Hotlines

  • Lane County Crisis Hotline: (541) 687-4000 (operated by White Bird Clinic)
  • Lane County Youth Crisis Line: (541) 689-3111
  • National Crisis Text Line: text Connect to 741741

Online Resources

About ShelterCare

ShelterCare has served the Eugene-Springfield community since 1970. The organization offers programs and services to families and individuals who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, along with adults with a mental illness or a brain injury. Last year, ShelterCare served 1,242 individuals in six different programs. For more information, visit

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