Trigger Warnings, Are They Necessary?

This has been a bit of a hot topic this week after Stephen Fry made a comment that child victims of sexual abuse should “grow up” and go easy on the self-pity. He also said he believed that people are becoming too sensitive, highlighted by the trend of “trigger warnings.”

I’d like to start by saying that I am NOT a victim of child abuse in any form and I cannot even begin to comprehend what that must be like to go through. Every individual deals with these traumas differently, some have better support than others which is evident in how they recover. Don’t get me wrong, I like Stephen Fry. He is often blunt and says relevant things, such as his statement on being offended, but I cannot condone what he has said on this occasion.

Trigger warnings are small disclaimers at the start of an article or text, like the warnings before a movie or TV show, letting people know that there is violence etc. They are designed to give people advanced warning that the article might upset them or be a setback in recovery. I’ve used them before in some of my more serious blog posts where I’ve described a panic attack in detail.

As someone who has dealt with mental health issues for a while now, I know how easy it is to be caught off guard by an image or an article and be transported back to a bad patch of life unexpectedly, something that can often be difficult to deal with. Trigger warnings give me the choice of whether or not to read these articles. If I’m not in a good head space at the time, you can be sure I’ll be avoiding them.

Of course there is the argument that we need to face our demons to overcome them and I absolutely agree with that, but there is a time and a place. That’s what therapy, counselling and group sessions are for. You go into these knowing full well that old wounds are going to be opened, and you have time to mentally prepare for it beforehand. I’m not saying that makes it easier, but no one ever went to therapy because they thought it would be easy. At least they shouldn’t anyway.

It’s probably difficult for people who haven’t been through these traumas to understand just how affective an article or image can be. There is still a strong “get over it” vibe amongst many people who have no experiences of their own. Just Google the term trigger warnings and you will come up with lots of opinion articles about how trigger warnings are stupid and people just need to get over it. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things and some of these people will never understand.

Are we using too many trigger warnings? Possibly. They do seem to be popping up more and more, I’ve often read articles with a trigger warning where I’ve wondered what the point was by the time I got through, but then again, what I might find to be a low trigger risk might send another person over the edge so who’s to say.

There does also seem to be a growing trend of banning words such as “violate” in college campuses in America and I wonder if this is taking it too far, doing more harm than good. There are famous comedians who have begun refusing to perform at colleges due to some students inability to take a joke. Comedians tend to make light of a lot controversial topics, such as racism and homophobia, but it is generally done in an attempt to open our eyes to the ridiculousness of issues like these.

image

Are we becoming too sensitive towards these issues? Yes and no. With the above paragraph, I feel that over time the negative effects of taking it too far will show and some of these over the top protective trends will relax. As with everything, there is a line, but it’s a matter of opinion as to how blurry it should be. I do think that as a society we are slowly becoming more aware of the effects abuse and mental illness has on people. The more information and shared experiences out there, trigger warnings and all, the better as far as I’m concerned.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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6 thoughts on “Trigger Warnings, Are They Necessary?

  1. Such an interesting post and I felt the same – wasn’t sure whether to be offended or feel like Stephen should know better. I’ve also not been an abuse victim but feel like the general consensus is don’t make people feel worse than they already do – especially vulnerable people? With comedy I feel like there’s an acceptance that you go, knowing that controversial topics might be discussed and it’s your call whether to be in the room to hear them. All interesting, love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speaking of offended, I love his statement about people being offended, it’s bang on which is why I’m so surprised he would say something like this. Completely agree with you about the comedy too. I watch a lot of standup and it’s rare for me to feel like the comedian has crossed a line. There are some who make bad taste jokes for shock value and to raise their profile, but for the most part they’re just having a laugh and I have chosen to be there like you mentioned. Thanks for reading 😁

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  2. No, I don’t think trigger warnings are helpful or needed. I think that facing those unexpected shocks, toe to toe, as they hit, is the healthiest way to make peace with what happened to me and to comprehend that what happened to me is not in any way in control of who I am. The childhood monsters don’t get to win. I think one reason that so many children have trouble finding peace after abuse is that our society blows it up into a huge insurmountable horror and convinces children they are damaged for life by it. I think it would be much better for a child’s confidence and future if we acknowledge what happened and teach them that they get to decide how much power they give it to control who they will be. Children need to know that they are able to slay the monsters instead of being conditioned to tremble in fear at every tiny reminder.

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    1. Very interesting to hear from someone who has had experience, like I mentioned in my post I was not abused in any way therefore my post was more about my opinion of trigger warnings for people with mental illnesses, like myself. There are definitely days where I cannot cope with certain images and articles and for that reason, I appreciate trigger warnings, but I absolutely agree with your statement that we do need to face things head on. I guess that running into them unexpectedly is really only to be expected these days, my issue is that I’ve had articles in the past set back my recovery. I could absolutely handle them now though, I’ve been through therapy and helped myself and am in a much better place. You may be onto something about society needing to take some of the blame. It is a horrendous thing and we do treat it to the extreme that way which could quite easily convince impressionable young children that they will always be a victim. I guess each individual experience is different. I know people who weren’t abused who now as adults act as if they have been wronged from childhood and play the victim, yet there are thousands of inspiring people out there who have been abused as children and are now living their lives to the max. Thanks for the comment, it has definitely given me something to think about.

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  3. I agree… the more info and experiences that are documented, the better. Put it out in the open so people can see that abuse and mental illness is very real. I’ve never seen trigger warnings before, so this is new to me. However, I do feel people need to be educated on some issues regardless.

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