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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

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Are trigger warnings necessary?


Art by Dzung Nguyen
Trigger warnings improve recovery
By Rochita Ghosh
Uncontrollable trembling. Impending sense of fear, of doom. Heart racing, pounding in one’s throat.
These are a few of the symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack, defined by Mayo Clinic as “an intense period of fear or feeling of doom developing over a very short time frame.” Panic attacks typically happen to those with an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and can often arise when confronted with something particularly distressing to a person, including sensitive topics like sexual assault or suicide.
While the attacks usually occur during a short time frame, they often leave the victim fatigued and fearful for days, and for a person trying to recover from a traumatic event, it often feels like several steps back in their recovery process. To combat trauma and to promote healing came the development of trigger warnings, a statement alerting of possible sensitive content to the receiver of the media.
Recently, trigger warnings have been a source of controversy after the University of Chicago explained that the administration would not condone the use of trigger warnings or safe spaces, stating that these were examples of censorship and infringed on one’s freedom of speech, according to NPR.
Censorship implies the suppression of a given media, and trigger warnings do not fit this definition. If true to censorship, these warnings would encourage the restriction of discussing sensitive topics, but that was never the intention. Trigger warnings originated from a place of understanding, of realizing that some people are not emotionally ready to talk about suicide, sexual assault or whatever it may be; not from a place of suppression.
It’s not wrong, however, to say that trigger warnings allow people suffering from a traumatic event to escape their healing. When one avoids a stressful situation, the recovery process never takes place. A common technique for overcoming anxiety and PTSD includes exposure therapy, which is the process of gradually introducing memories, feelings and situations related to one’s trauma, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Forcing a person who has suffered sexual assault to watch a graphic representation of it on screen is not exposure therapy; instead, it’s overwhelming, and is more likely to cause a severe panic attack than a positive response in one’s recovery. Trigger warnings allow viewers to take control of their healing process and decide if they are ready to handle a given material.
These warnings are not commonplace. People justify their scarcity by saying that the ‘real world’ has no trigger warnings, that the real world is cold, cruel and unsympathetic to life troubles. Thus, regardless of traumatic experiences, people must deal with their problems and move on, right?
Recovery isn’t that simple — it’s a long, complicated and lifelong process, and there is no need to make an already difficult journey that much more harrowing.
The real world doesn’t have to be a desolate, unforgiving place. We humans have the power to make the world a more positive and accepting place, but one person cannot undertake that change alone. Be considerate of one another, of what trauma fellow human beings have gone through, and respect their attempts to overcome it.
[divider top=”no”] Trigger warnings feed overprotective mindset
By Elad Gov-Ari
The direction the new generation is headed is soft. People of our day and age are always concerned with sheltering and protecting every discomfort a person experiences in their day-to-day lives. Whether that comes from a hyper sensitivity to racism or avoiding controversial yet necessary topics, this problem is an ever present part of today’s culture.
Sheltering has found its way into most aspects of entertainment and has become increasingly large. The latest, and most bothersome form of sheltering, however, is trigger warnings.
A trigger warning, as the Merriam Webster dictionary defines, is ‘a statement cautioning that content (as in a text, video, or class) may be disturbing or upsetting. ’  By usage of this definition, any topic addressed in media that may be upsetting, in theory, must be prefaced by a clear, descriptive warning of what’s to come. This seemingly small message can have a variety of negative effects, from taking away from the credibility and impact of a subject, to feeding the population’s growing oversensitivity to real world problems.
The prevalence of trigger warnings has gone to such extremes, that according to an article by The New York Times, students nationwide have began to complain that their universities need to install trigger warnings into classes so that the material covered won’t take them by surprise. This has been met with most colleges’ refusal to adhere to such warnings, with the University of Chicago warning future students that it will offer no ‘intellectual safe spaces’ that are to be free of these triggers as it ‘infringes on academic freedoms’ by regulating what is discussed.
On top of this, research adressed in an article by shows that trigger warnings ‘do little to mitigate the effects of trauma among readers.’ In fact, very little research has found that trigger warnings do much of anything for readers, but take away from some shock value that goes into the specific form of media.
Finally, trigger warnings are said to cater to the needs of those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and while no scientific evidence supports such claims, the concept of sheltering these people from mere words seen in everyday’s life, be that on billboards, commercials or magazines, is an arduous and rather preposterous task. People living in everyday life would come across ‘triggers’ everywhere, every single day. To propose such a thing as a prefaced warning to each topic discussed is going too far.
Overall, despite seemingly insignificant in their nature, trigger warnings validate the newer generation’s oversensitivity to free-formed discussion and exploration of difficult subjects. This is not to say that racism, sexism, violence and all the other horrors of our society are not ever present and discussed. But when it comes to smaller scale evaluation or assessment of such topics, students and adults alike should be able to bear these shaky feelings and proceed with their lives, as they experience a realm of education and thought that no other generation has.
Do you think trigger warnings are beneficial or detrimental? Comment your opinion below.

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  • K

    Kayla WestNov 6, 2016 at 11:39 am

    This is a very well written piece and I enjoyed reading it. Trigger warnings are a hard topic but I have to agree that they help students who are suffering from anxiety or PTSP tremendously. I know from experience as someone who struggles with both that there have been times when one is needed and I end up having to leave the classroom or setting I am in. While they are helpful I also feel that if you are not exposed to those situations and always shielded from them, you will never learn to cope. It takes time to develop certain skills and mindsets but it can be done. Thank you for sharing!

  • A

    Alexis WalkerNov 5, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I think that there should not be trigger warnings. I think that if a person just had a traumatic experience or something happen, they should know what they can and cannot handle without the disclaimer. If they know they can’t handle something, they should stay away from any media until they have improved.

  • L

    Lisa ZhuangNov 5, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    This is a very interesting topic. I wonder what the survey results would have been a few years ago. I feel like trigger warnings have been very prominent recently, and are encompassing more topics. Trigger warnings seem super prominent and almost popular among certain sites, like tumblr. It’s interesting what the University of Chicago said. I hadn’t quite thought about trigger warnings like that before.