'Fireworks heroes code' launched as public warned bonfire celebrations can trigger veterans' trauma

Fireworks can have a negative effect on veterans and others. Credit: Pexels

A leading veterans' charity has launched a 'firework heroes code' as it warns Bonfire Night celebrations can trigger bad moments service personnel experienced in combat.

Launching the campaign, Help for Heroes said they wanted to raise awareness over the negative impact that fireworks can have on veterans and others.

The public are being asked to consider going to planned events rather than setting off fireworks in their back garden. If people do chose to have their own display, the code asks them to let neighbours know.

People are also being encouraged to use the new breed of silent or low noise fireworks that provide the visual display without the accompanying bangs that can be so traumatic.

The Firework Heroes Code

  • Be mindful – think about the impact fireworks can have on people (and animals) nearby

  • Go to planned public fireworks displays - rather than set off fireworks at home

  • Give neighbours advance warning – it can be as simple as a message on a local WhatsApp or Facebook groups. If you are having fireworks at home this gives those near you the chance to create a coping strategy

  • Go silent - consider using the new generation of ‘silent’ fireworks

  • Give support - if you think someone has been affected by fireworks, make them as relaxed and as comfortable as possible and encourage them to reach out for professional help.

Former Senior RAF Aircraftsman, Matt Neve, whose mental health suffered while on service during the Iraq war, says unexpected bangs can trigger his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The planned public events aren’t so bad, and the new silent fireworks are a good idea," Mr Neve says.

"It’s the unexpected bangs of fireworks in people’s homes or in the street that take me right back to where my trauma began and triggers my PTSD.

"Hearing them makes me fearful and angry but I also have a physical reaction as I shake and my heart races.

"I have to take myself out of the situation and sit somewhere quietly, take deep breaths and compose myself to bring myself back to the ‘now’."

Professor Colin Preece, Wellbeing Manager for the charity's Hidden Wounds team, said: “The vast majority of the veterans that we support for mental health issues tell us that they don’t like fireworks. It can be the bangs and the flashes, but also the smell of fireworks can be a massive trigger for them.

"These stimuli can remind veterans of bad moments they experienced in combat and make them relive traumatic events in their lives. It can be particularly problematic for those with PTSD.”

What to do if you or someone you know needs help:

  • Help For Heroes' Hidden Wounds service provides free and confidential psychological wellbeing advice and support to eligible veterans and their families.

  • If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.

  • Veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day on 0800 138 1619 for veterans and their families, 0800 323 444 for serving personnel and their families, via text on 07537 404719, or through their website.

  • Veterans' charity SSAFA is available on 0800 731 4880 or through their website.

  • The Government's Veterans' Gateway offers advice and help for veterans seeking support and can be contacted on 0800 802 1212 or through the website.

  • Mind offers a helpline on 0300 123 3393 from 9am to 6pm.