Allison Kelly Staff Writer
Something that is becoming increasingly prominent in society, especially in the college environment, are trigger warnings. A trigger warning, by definition, is a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer of the fact that it contains potentially distressing material. Frequently used in artistic and academic settings, these warnings generally help people to have the option to avoid a certain topic, situation, or type of content that may be extremely uncomfortable for them or have the ability to cause high risk levels of stress due to some prior experience. But, the controversy surrounding these warnings mainly deals with the ideas of whether or not it is actually society’s responsibility to provide them and even question if whether or not they may be doing more harm than good for society in general.
Trigger warnings can be extremely important for certain people under different circumstances in which they may take certain topics a little harder than others. The more popular topics that would call for a trigger warning in society are those such as suicide, depression, rape, anxiety, eating disorders, and self harm. For example, a victim of sexual assault may find a trigger warning before a movie including a rape scene to be extremely important to their mental state. Having the control to decide whether or not they can deal with the specific content in public yet is the power that these warnings provide people with. But, following this logic, the amount of topics that could call for trigger warnings is infinite, and this is really where the controversy begins.
We have to take into consideration that literally anything can be a trigger, even something that may seem so ridiculous or irrelevant for to even cross (most of our) minds as having the potential. So, is society as a whole responsible to provide these warnings? How are we ever to tell what can and can’t be a trigger for someone?
These warnings are present to help certain people not ready to deal with specific issues in public, but we are never really going to be able to help everyone because it is not possible to know every single person’s trigger. Therefore, since we can’t help everyone, does this mean we shouldn’t try to help anyone at all? Or, should we just be helping as many as possible?
Generally, someone at the risk of behavior following a certain trigger that may be harmful to oneself or those around them are dealing with some form of a mental illness on some level. A mental illness is something in which we can really only help ourselves with besides seeking professional help. Therefore, some believe that providing trigger warnings are not, in any way, society’s responsibility because it is not possible for us to solve everyone’s specific mental illness, nor should we have to worry about it. It is their own responsibility to help themselves or seek the professional help they need to individually help their situation until they are capable of helping themselves. Not only do people believe that it is just not our responsibility as a whole to try to help everyone with something they can only help themselves with, but that by providing trigger warning they may even be only adding to someone’s problem.
Being blindsided by distressing content to someone with some degree of a mental illness can cause for them to react in a certain way in which they are not comfortable doing in public, panic attacks or mental breakdowns for examples. This would cause for them to be isolated and put on display. But some believe that providing someone the opportunity to isolate themselves in certain situations actually alienates them even more and allows for the side of them that they were trying to keep hidden in the first place to become even more evident to others because of the mere fact of them trying to avoid it. And not only allowing them to alienate themselves from society, but also allowing for them to avoid a certain situation in which it could be helpful for them to face, can just further delay their healing process or potential progress.
On the other hand, anyone actually dealing with any of the issues present may argue that trigger warning are really essential to their everyday life when dealing with their own problems. The situation of a trigger warning and whether or not it is helpful really depends on where the person is. If someone is in an environment in which they don’t have any support from others, these warnings can be the key to what keeps them sane and stable out in public. Trigger warnings don’t necessarily cause for people to avoid things that maybe they should face, but just gives them the power and the option to deal with it on their own terms.
Overall, society at large really can’t be held accountable to provide trigger warnings because of the mere fact that it is just impossible to cover all of the bases. That said, It is considerate to maybe make a trigger warning less specific in order to cover more topics and create less isolation for anyone making use of the warning. In the end, however, the general public cannot be held responsible to provide these warnings, anyone in need of this can’t depend on them to get by.