Scrolling the internet can be quite an experience. There is so much unfiltered information, and we are constantly absorbing both good and bad information. One minute you are reading about how to preserve flowers, and the next you land on a sexual assault incident that happened. You are looking at a funny video about cats, and the next minute there is a story about suicide. Without trigger warnings, it becomes close to impossible to psychologically prepare for triggering stories.
I know of a girl who became completely triggered and affected by rape stories on the internet. She had to delete the apps and stay away from social media completely. After a few days, she went back into therapy, after achieving certain milestones in her mental health. The stories were a reminder of the emotional pain that she was struggling so hard to heal from. In addition, she felt as though she was reliving her experiences, things that she had struggled so hard to forget. That’s where trigger warnings come in.
A trigger warning is a warning of something that may trigger a flashback or physiological symptoms stemming from past trauma, often sexual assault, abuse, or other violence.
Trigger warnings give people with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and others who have experienced trauma an idea of the content they’re about to encounter. This prepares those readers or viewers to cope with a significant, possibly debilitating, emotional reaction.
With the knowledge that particular content could be triggering, PTSD victims can choose whether or not to walk into it. That’s why trigger warnings are so important. They allow someone to stop and think, “Am I in the right state of mind to consume this content?”
Some people have argued that avoiding triggers is not a healthy way to cope with trauma. It may be true that avoiding triggers is unlikely to help with symptoms of PTSD in the long term. However, it’s important that we remember that the purpose of trigger warnings is not to avoid the triggers, but to allow the victim to bring their coping mechanism to the forefront of their mind and have them ready to use.
PTSD victims have lost control in their lives, and trigger warnings may help them cope with the horrors they have experienced. When you weigh the pros and cons of trigger warnings, they are more beneficial than detrimental.
In the last few years, the awareness of mental health issues has increased. Even so, it seems as though mental health is not taken with the seriousness it deserves. Trauma is real, and getting over it can feel like grasping at straws. It’s time we realise that trigger warnings can significantly help to mitigate things from getting out of hand.
Neil Gaiman’s book Trigger Warnings describes triggers so intensely and vividly. “There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.”
A simple mention of a trigger warning could help a victim not to relieve their dark past. A trigger warning could help a victim sit with themselves and decide whether or not to consume the content. In short, trigger warnings are extremely important, and it’s time we take them with the seriousness they deserve.
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