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Fireworks can trigger PTSD episodes for veterans and first responders

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Rockford Police Department says it's taken more than 600 calls this year from people reporting fireworks. While these noisemakers may be a nuisance to some, to others they may trigger a mental health issue.

"It really raises a person's heart rate, anxiety, fear," says Dan DeGryse.

DeGryse runs Rosecrance's Florian Program for first responders and veterans. He says the sight, sound, or even smell of fireworks can trigger symptoms of PTSD for some, especially when they come sporadically on the days leading up to the holiday.

"Some will get angry, some will get frustrated, some will hide in a room."

DeGryse is a retired Chicago firefighter and vividly remembers a smell at his firehouse that took him back to his time responding in the aftermath of 9-11 in New York City.

"I kind of got stopped in my tracks and at first I couldn't figure it out and it really kind of frustrating. Then I realized it was the dust that smelled very similar to pulverized material at ground zero."

DeGryse says the safest thing to do is leave the fireworks to the professionals. However, if you do plan on lighting some he encourages you to reach out to neighbors and friends for honest conversations. He stresses communication to ensure your actions don't open old wounds.

"And especially if they're home alone, the older vets," says DeGryse. "That would go such a long way to say, 'Hey, how is it with you?' Some might get a bad reaction and say well how do you think I feel? For others it will make a big difference."

If you'd like to learn more about Rosecrance's Florian Program click here.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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