The trigger warning as prevention

This Thursday at a Guerrilla meeting, after going over some ideas, plans, and hopes for future projects, we had a talk about trigger warnings. I realized during that discussion that I didn’t think that much about trigger warnings, or rather that I was not aware of the complete range of reasons for using them. Although I have used them before, I’m still not fully cognizant of how important they can be to certain individuals who have experienced a traumatic event or suffer from PTSD, since I can’t say I’ve had such an experience.

During the discussion, we highlighted the fact that a lot of the hype around trigger warnings as the symptom of an annoying  “social justice warrior” generation is due largely to a general lack of information or knowledge about the purpose of the trigger warning.  Although I have encountered individuals who would still oppose them despite this fact, mostly due to a staunch philosophical defense of free speech, I’m sure that more people would be open to them if they were understood for their purpose.

I can see why people would be doubtful of trigger warnings, and would like to engage in discussion with people who do believe that by tagging the work before being read, or by providing warnings, that the trigger warning is in fact a work of censorship. I think this is an important discussion to be had. My defense for the trigger warning is that it can’t be censorship due to the fact that the content is still there, it’s just a little tucked away under a safety barrier for those who would react to the content in a way that’s painful and potentially dangerous for them.

Someone at the meeting said something about trigger warnings that I won’t forget: they are like allergy warnings. Certain common allergens, like wheat or eggs, should be listed simply for consumer safety. A panic attack for someone with mental illness is in this way something very similar to an allergic reaction, something that is presently innate and hard to control without direct avoidance. It’s time we start thinking more about how we can start taking into account people’s reactions, in every sense of the word.

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