In Defence of Trigger Warnings

[Note: this is a general discussion about trigger/content warnings and doesn't cover any specific topics/triggers, although the linked articles do]

Attacking trigger warnings is easy. It's easy to laugh at 'special snowflakes' and the notion that someone might be upset by something in a play. It's easy to assert that we need to be endlessly exposed to the horrors of the world, that it will make us better people somehow.

This entirely misses the point. The people who need the trigger warnings aren't people who aren't aware of nasty truths, they're the people who are all too aware of them. The people who've lived through them, who haven't had the support they need to process this trauma, and who could do without being sent into a dangerous downward spiral.

I have, and sometimes still do, need trigger warnings. I have been 'triggered' by content online, on TV, on the radio (and, yes, in plays) that has led me to put myself in real, physical danger. I've watched TV dramas that have taken an unexpected turn and left me reliving the most traumatic experience of my life over and over again for weeks.

When I've been particularly vulnerable or unsupported (and let's face it, many people reliant on NHS mental health services are unsupported) these triggers have led to me having days off work, to dangerous behaviours and to obsessive thought patterns that make functioning a near impossibility.

This isn't about preventing naive people feeling a bit sad about the world. It's about trying to help people who are fighting just to stay afloat. People who are trying to drag themselves through the day without getting sucked into a downward spiral that could kill them.

If you really can't empathise with that feeling - well, I'm jealous of you, you've had a relatively lucky life, or maybe an incredibly consistent and robust support network. Not everyone has had the same luck.

Some people need a bit of extra protection and if all it costs you is a bit of exasperation, maybe that's not too big a price to quietly pay.

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