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Are Trigger Warnings Actually Helpful?

After recently coming across a Bill Maher episode talking about trigger warnings on college campuses, since I write for people with PTSD quite a bit, I thought I would reach out to the community and get your impression.

While I do think it is going a bit far to say that saying "Trigger Warning" is triggering, I do think that there needs to be some sort of guidance for those of us who write specifically for the trauma community.

Personally, I typically try to make my posts descriptively vague and only refer to trauma in the abstract. However, if I am going into detail I will use a trigger warning.

According to The Mix, here are some instances that a trigger warning would be used:

  • Death

  • Sexual violence/ rape

  • Food and drink/ eating disorders

  • Paedophilia

  • Violence/murder

  • Sex/masturbation

  • Self-harm

  • Suicide

  • Homophobia, transphobia, sexism (any kind of discrimination)

  • Talk of dysphoria, body image and appearance

Is it actually helping us to use a trigger warning though? Personally, I think it depends on where you are at with healing from trauma, the subject matter, and how you may be feeling at the specific time that you are reading the article.

Also, keeping your audience in mind is important. If you write about mental health, it is important to have a greater awareness of issues that could specifically be traumatic for your readers. In the mental health community, we know that people are often at their most vulnerable when they come for help.

This means, being attentive to the needs of our unique audience, and their issues. As someone who writes about mental health, I want to do the best that I can to uplift our community, and to help other people who are struggling with mental health issues, the way that I do.

Because I have experienced mental health issues and trauma myself, I am going to be transparent. There are times that I haven't read something because of a trigger warning. And there are other times that I felt triggered just by the title of something I read, and a trigger warning wouldn't have helped.

So, I can see it both ways. Sometimes trigger warnings help me and sometimes they don't.

According to a 2022 Study,

A new analysis of 12 studies has found that trigger warnings, notes that warn readers or viewers that they could find content distressing, do not actually reduce negative reactions or increase avoidance of the material — and instead may lead to a “risk of emotional harm.”

If these new studies are correct, the college campuses might be right. It might be triggering just to say "Trigger warning." If this is the case, what should we be doing instead? How can we best be attentive to the needs of the PTSD community so that we aren't being triggering in what we write, and to be of the most help instead?

Let me know what you think in the comments!


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