The Importance of Trigger Warnings

23 June

by Freedom Of Mind


What do you think about trigger warnings? Useful or unnecessary? A Freedom of Mind Festival volunteer shares some quick thoughts on why we use them.

TW: this post mentions topics such as violence, assault and Post Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

Talking about mental health issues can be difficult at the best of times, regardless as to whether you recognise that most individuals who have mental health issues are, in some way, vulnerable.

“Triggers” can be words, images, locations, text, behaviours or memories; they provoke distress in various forms and can cause both emotional and physical responses. It’s not someone just deciding they feel uncomfortable or unhappy with something, it can be renewed anxiety, physical discomfort or simply fear. They’re complex reactions.

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I’ve recently understood just how important it can be to provide trigger warnings on topics and/or discussions. This wasn’t always the case. I’d hardly say I was against the idea, but I initially assumed that we were just becoming too cautious, too sensitive and too censored within society. Is it really necessary to put a warning? What difference does it make?

Here are three reasons why content warnings are important:

1. Simply feeling uncomfortable over something doesn’t accurately represent the hot flashes, panic and vivid flashbacks of assault a victim might feel. Respect that their response might be remarkably different to yours.

2. It’s just a couple of words or letters at the start of your post.  Considering the trauma someone might have to re-live? It’s a no-brainer to include.

3. It may have taken someone months or years to begin recovery from an event. Not only can being triggered be a significant setback, it can also damage their current mental health. Providing a trigger warning allows the person to regain a bit of control. It enables them to decide whether they’re stable/comfortable/ready (delete as appropriate) enough to confront the issue; or they could simply opt out of viewing the material, thus preventing further distress.

You can continue to craft graphic depictions of violence, assault etc. to whatever extent you wish – there is absolutely no censorship of what and how much of something you can do. Just please respect that everyone who views your content deserves a warning regarding the material which can be damaging to their mental health. It’s really not that much to ask, right?

Thank you for reading.

Simba (anonymous alias)

Let us know what you think about trigger warnings by chatting to us on Twitter or on our Facebook page (or, if you’re feeling fancy, check us out on Instagram too!)

Want to get involved in Freedom Of Mind Festival? We currently have two intern roles up for grabs, working in specific areas of the festival. Pop your details into this form and we’ll be in touch soon. 

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