Why trigger warnings are so important

TW- discussion about rape, self harm and suicide.

What are trigger warnings?

If you don’t know what a trigger warning is, it is a warning which should be issued if there is anything within the content that could trigger any pain, or issues to a person who is viewing the content. For example if a blog post talks about sexual assault then a trigger warning should be issues by the blogger because it could cause distress or other issues to the reader.

Do you have to legally issue a trigger warning?

There are no laws or rules about trigger warnings which are binding in any way however they can be advisory if you don’t want to negatively affect your viewers. A study in 2016 at Oxford university stated that 48% of undergraduate students would like trigger warnings before being taught hard and daunting topics such as rape. This has been giving some criticism however I cannot understand that, why would you not want to pre-warn your students and give them an opportunity to leave if the content of the lecture would cause any mental harm? Why is your content more important than that persons mental and physical health?

What can having a trigger warning do?

The trigger warning will allow people to make the personal decision whether they can mentally and physically cope with watching, reading or listening to a hard hitting subject. For example if a criminal law student had been raped and then had to listen to a lecture all about rape or watch a mock trail about rape, this could cause them serious mental health problems due to having to be reminded and potentially re living the horrific things that had happened to that student. However if there was a trigger warning prior to the lecture that student would have an opportunity to talk to her lecturer and sort other arrangements so they can avoid the mental torture that could come from listening to a talk about rape.

Another example could be if an individual was dealing with self harm issues and if they saw or heard about self harm it could cause them to want to self harm again and could ultimately cause the actions of self harming. However if there was a trigger warning saying “there are mentions or visions of self harm” that individual could make the executive decision to avoid that content so that issue will not be triggered.

Why are you writing about this?

Well I decided to write this post after watching the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born” which was an incredible movie however it shocked me to my core since I had never seen the originals and there were no initial warnings. Now this is a spoiler for the film so if you do want to watch it read with caution, in the end of the film the main character Jackson hangs himself after fighting addiction problems for a long time. This was obviously the plot twist that the film wanted to have to grip the audience more and have an impact, however it can cause a completely different impact which I feel like the producers didn’t consider. Before the film started it did say that it had substance abuse and strong language within the film, that in itself is partially a trigger warning, however there was no mention of suicide which can be hugely harmful for all people with suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues linked to self harm and suicide. I can see that they wouldn’t want to ‘ruin’ the ending however I feel like there are much bigger problems than that to consider. When I watched the film and saw how that characters life ended, I immediately felt uncomfortable and uneasy, and I felt trapped and slightly claustrophobic. I personally haven’t really been diagnosed with any mental illnesses however I have still dealt with issues that if I saw that film a few years ago it would have really triggered some harmful thoughts and actions in my life. I haven’t had them feelings for a long time but since I was so emotionally invested in that film, which is the producers aim, that this death and this lack of pre-warning really deeply affected me for weeks afterwards. I felt like that warning needed to be there so the people watching could be prepared for it and also could make the decision whether or not to watch it to protect their own health.

I would love to hear any feedback or thoughts you have on this issue and whether you think trigger warnings are important.

Thank you so much for reading today’s post and I hope to see you around these parts again soon!

Alex x

6 Comments

  1. I wasn’t planning on watching A Star Is Born but I definitely agree, this is super vital to anything, whether it’s any reading content or on videos, or whatever! There’s some things people can be sensitive to and take them back to dark days so it would be best and courteous to do so. I suppose then everyone would feel entitled to having trigger warnings for every little thing but at least people could try to do better! 🙂 Great post as always, Alex! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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