Storify: Trigger Warnings

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

These panels are from Captain America: Sam Wilson #17.

Several people have asked me about this, so we need a thread on Trigger Warnings. Trigger Warnings serve many people for many reasons, but this heavily includes people with PTSD, who are trauma survivors. Trauma is built into the name there: post-TRAUMAtic stress disorder. When I say trigger warnings are for trauma survivors, that's a fact.

Trigger Warnings are also "for" many other people, but trauma survivors figure prominently in the demographic being served. For a person with PTSD, a "trigger" is something that can take them (often unwillingly) back to a place of trauma and distress. Trigger Warnings serve to WARN readers about upcoming TRIGGERS (hence the name) so they can prepare themselves if they wish to read. Sometimes the "preparation" is simply knowing the material is coming. Sometimes it's waiting to read in a safe space where they can cry.

Trigger Warnings do not mean that the material is bad, or problematic, or that trauma survivors shouldn't read it. You have seen Content Notes--an umbrella term which includes Trigger Warnings--all your life on movies and movie previews.

"Rated R for graphic sex, violence, nudity, and language" is a content note.

"The material we are about to air on the news may not be suitable for young viewers" is a content note.

"This is a Ginny/Harry fic, not Hermione/Harry" is a content note.

"This is a capital-R Romance novel with a proper Happily Ever After" is a content note.

In short: You have very likely been exposed to content notes and trigger warnings your entire life.

A "safe space" may avoid certain topics entirely, but most simply enforce warnings for content. They don't set content off-limits. Indeed, your average Safe Space probably deals with heavier topics than most spaces. But they deal with them CAREFULLY.

Final note: I want to be clear that "trigger" is a multi-use term, not JUST used by people with PTSD. There are other trauma survivors who don't have PTSD and people with mental illness who use the word "trigger" in slightly different ways. That usage is valid, so I do ask people not to police them. But, yes, anyone saying "LOL TRIGGURED" is using it wrong.

I leave this note because some folks have been like "if you don't have PTSD you can't use the word!" and I don't agree with that. Mental illness and health are complicated and there's some overlap re: "exposure to thing that hurts me in mental health-related ways". ANYWAY, that is what trigger warning is and why mocking trigger warnings = mocking trauma survivors (among others).

UPDATE: I really want to stress that this thread is about MOCKING trigger warnings, not about POLICING the use of the word "trigger". A lot of people who have triggers don't have a full mental health work-up saying so. A trigger can sometimes send me into a full panic attack or can other times just make me really emotional or other times nothing. It varies.

Most of the people using the word "trigger" are using it in good faith, in my experience. I'm uncomfortable with policing the word use. I policed my own self for years, fretting over whether I was triggered "enough" to use the word. That was unhealthy and unhelpful for me. This thread is about why it's cruel to mock trigger warnings (with a freaking comic-weapon that looks like a grenade, ffs), it is not a thread policing usage and adoption of a useful and valuable term for discussing mental health. Thank you.


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