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What Fireworks Mean for a UK Veteran

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This Bonfire Night PTSD Resolution offers a gentle reminder - fireworks aren't fun for everybody.

Fireworks aren't a harmless way to celebrate for Veterans suffering from PTSD - instead they can trigger a traumatic reaction. On Remembrance Day, 11th November, we will pause and pay tribute to our Service men and women, so, why not - in the days before - spare a thought for Veterans like Jason Haynes.

Jason's trauma and PTSD diagnosis means the 5th November isn't as carefree as it used to be. The widespread and largely unregulated use of fireworks on Bonfire Night can be immensely triggering:

"I am affected by fireworks because of the different loud bangs. The multi-coloured ones send my PTSD through the roof and take me back to my ambush.

"I feel it affects all Veterans in a similar way, it upsets us and makes us quiver into a ball in the corner. We jump to the slightest bang, flashes etc."

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When Jason's symptoms worsened he reached out to PTSD Resolution - and began to get his life back. A UK wide charity, PTSDR provides much needed help for Forces' Veterans suffering the effects of trauma. Tony Gauvain, Colonel (Retired), therapist and Chairman of PTSD Resolution, explains:

"Any sensory experience which the brain interprets as being something like a past traumatic event can trigger a spontaneous reaction - for example, a sudden bang, the smell of burning, a flash of light.

"PTSD Resolution therapists are trained in skills that help the brain interpret such triggers in a less intrusive away and reduce the emotional impact of the traumatic event. Rather than fear and avoid each Guy Fawkes night, Veterans are encouraged to contact PTSD Resolution and take steps to regain control and enjoy life."

Following treatment Jason turned his attention to others suffering with trauma. With his therapist he discussed how fireworks could potentially trigger a relapse - and was even able to take part in a Government Inquiry. In 2019 a Parliamentary Commission was held into what might be done to mitigate the impact of fireworks on Veterans and others struggling with PTSD.

Jason believes Bonfire Night should only be marked with proper or official fireworks displays that have a license from the government.

However, the Inquiry ultimately recommended that "While people who want to ban the public from buying and using fireworks have valid concerns that must be addressed, we cannot support a ban before other, less drastic but potentially more effective, options have been fully explored… …it is not appropriate to ban the public from buying and using fireworks at this time, as it would not be a proportionate measure." [1]

So, this 5th November it is up to us as individuals to celebrate responsibly - and be aware of the wide range of experiences and vulnerabilities that exist within our community.


[1] On 5 November 2019, the Petitions Committee published its First Report of Session 2019, on Fireworks (HC 103). The response from the Government was received on 13 March 2020 and is appended here.

For information contact www.PTSDresolution.org 


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