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Bonfire Night support for Military Veterans!

Posted on the 31st October 2017

Ex-service personnel in Lancashire who are affected by fireworks and struggling with their mental health can seek support from the Lancashire Military Veterans’ Service this this Bonfire Night. 

Every year around the 5 November, there are firework displays taking place in villages and towns across Lancashire. Whilst for many it is a time to dig out a winter coat and cosy up with family and friends around a warm fire, for veterans it is a time which can trigger extreme service related trauma and distress. The whistling and loud bangs and the sight of bright flashes and heavy smoke can cause veterans to have flashbacks to their time within the service and provoke unwanted feelings of anxiety and memories of gunshots and explosions.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust would like people to consider that bonfire night isn’t always fun for everyone. The sight and sounds can cause an array of emotional problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), stress, depression and anxiety.  The Military Veterans’ service provides emotional and mental health support to those who have served in the armed forces and understands that in times of need people can often struggle seeking help. With this in mind The Lancashire Military Veterans’ Service is providing some top tips to keep people well this bonfire night, people can follow these on their own or with family and friends:

Plan your evening – Think about what you would like to do and whether you would like to go out. Going out could break the opportunity to begin to 'break the link' between current triggers and past dangers. It may be that being exposed to such strong triggers feels too much at present. If that is the case, think about where you will be on Bonfire Night, and prepare using some of the 'grounding and soothing' techniques described below.

Identify your triggers – You may find the smells around Bonfire Night can trigger strong feelings and difficult memories. If this is the case, it can be helpful to carry a competing smell to 'bring you back' to the present such as lavender or peppermint or strong smell such as Olbas Oil. If it is noise, try listening to your favourite song through headphones or purchase some foam ear plugs to block it out.

Focus on your breathing - Breathe easily, taking in a slightly shorter breath and breathing out a slightly longer breath, do not take deep breaths. By focusing on your breathing and you can calm down and reduce your anxiety.

Run warm or cold water over your hands - Immersing our hands in warm water engages the calming nervous system and under cool water will reduce the temperature of your body.

Think about your surroundings in as much detail as you can - Notice five things in the room using each of the senses in turn (something you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste). Describe these out loud or in your head.

Joe Crocock, Military Veterans’ Service Manager at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“People across Lancashire look forward to Bonfire Night and the wonderful displays that take place. Whilst enjoying the evening we would like to remind people that there are veterans out there who are experiencing difficulties and unwanted flashbacks.

“The Military Veterans’ service has valuable insight and understanding of life both in and out of the forces as many staff are veterans themselves or have members of family serving in the forces. We understand that this time of year is difficult and want to reach out and encourage those who are struggling to follow our tips and get in touch directly with the service for our support.”

The Military Veterans’ Service is a partnership between Lancashire Care and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. The service provides a valuable insight and understanding of life both in and out of the forces as many staff are veterans themselves or have family members in the forces.

For more information about the Military Veterans’ Service and to make a self-referral, please visit www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk/Military-Veterans or call 0300 323 0707.