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Fireworks may be traumatic to Las Vegas shooting survivors, others

As the July 4 holiday approaches, mental health experts warn that the sound of fireworks could be unsettling for Oct. 1 shooting survivors and others who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Officials at the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center are asking residents to talk to their neighbors before lighting off fireworks in anticipation that the sounds could trigger anxiety for those who were affected by the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting or other traumatic events.

“Many of those who were at the Route 91 festival have described the onset of the shooting as sounding like fireworks,” Terri Keener, the center’s behavioral health coordinator and a licensed clinical social worker, said in a news release. “Over the Fourth of July holiday, the sound of fireworks may be a startling reminder of that night for many survivors.”

The center also is warning survivors to anticipate and prepare for possible reactions, like anxiety, flashbacks and embarrassment over those feelings. Experts also urge loved ones to be supportive.

“Some survivors may be reluctant to attend or participate in celebrations, while others may have a desire not to isolate themselves,” said Megan Freeman, a psychologist with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

The center offered tips for coping with the stress of celebrations, including using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, staying close to exits and calmly stepping aside if anxiety sets in and performing calming tasks like taking a walk or drinking a glass of water.

Long-term stress reduction activities including eating well, exercising, limiting caffeine and alcohol and practicing breathing techniques, it said.

The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center offers free resources for those struggling after the Oct. 1 mass shooting. A support group for shooting survivors meets Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. at Desert Parkway Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, 3247 S. Maryland Parkway. Another support group meets on the first Tuesday of every month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Nathan Adelson Hospice Center for Compassionate Care, 4131 Swenson St.

The center can be reached at 702-455-2433 or toll-free at 833-299-2433. The center’s email is vegasstrongresiliencycenter@clarkcountynv.gov and its website is www.vegasstrongrc.org.

Military veterans and others who may be suffering the aftereffects of traumatic situations also can be affected by loud fireworks.

Anyone feeling anxious or overwhelmed is invited to attend free support groups, listed on the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Nevada website at https://namisouthernnevada.org/support-groups/. Groups are offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at three Las Vegas locations.

Veterans in need of mental health services can call the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System at 702-791-9024 to set up an assessment or call 1-800-273-8255 for crisis counseling.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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