This past weekend, someone made a snide comment about suicide in front of me. He then proceeded to mock the fact that people seem to be “triggered” by his words. Little did anyone know around me just how “triggered” I was.
I will admit that before this experience, I really didn’t understand the seriousness and depth of a trigger warning. Older generations like to mock them, calling Generation X and millennials “liberal snowflakes” or overly sensitive leftists incapable of engaging in debate.
But why should a victim of a trauma be expected to engage in a debate about it? No one should be forced to talk about something that causes distressing memories to pop up. This is why trigger warnings are extremely important and necessary.
The problem seems to stem not with what a trigger warning really is, but with the stigmatization of mental illness in general.
Our good friend Urban Dictionary defines a trigger warning as “a warning before showing something that could cause a PTSD reaction.” The website’s definition goes further to explain that “commonly used as a joke, its meaning has unfortunately depreciated, drawing more stigma to mental illness.”
I don’t know many people who understand mental illness well that would have a problem with that definition, and why it is often necessary.
Mental illness is real, and it is very scary. It’s the worst kind of pain; it’s a pain you cannot escape. Why our society still does not view a mental illness as the same as a physical one is beyond me.
By making fun of trigger warnings, you are essentially saying someone’s mental illness is a joke.
This past spring, the Political Awareness Committee (PAC) hosted one of their few conservative speakers, Christina Hoff Sommers. Her talk was about who stole feminism (spoiler: it was liberals) and proceeded to rip apart people who need trigger warnings.
Many people were berated for leaving the talk after some of those comments. However, it is very unfair for someone to associate trigger warnings with extreme leftists.
Trauma doesn’t affect just one political party, gender, race, etc. Sure, some marginalized groups are definitely more susceptible than others, but the fact is that anyone can be traumatized by an event in their life.
Unfortunately, college students (who overall tend to be more liberal) are a group that seems especially affected by trauma. First years pick up everything in their lives and start over in a place they don’t know, with people they don’t know. Some have never lived away from home for an extended period of time before. You can’t expect everyone to be perfectly fine with that change.
I try to be open now about what happened to me my first year. For months, I would go to class and come back to my room and cry for hours. I was not okay. And for the first time in my life, my mind went to a very dark place.
I try to talk about it now so people (especially first years) know that it’s okay to not be 100 percent okay in college. It is a huge change, and change affects everyone differently.
It got a lot better, and I’m really happy with who I am and where I am now. But that doesn’t erase the painful memories. I guess I just have to be okay with being a “liberal snowflake” for being triggered by someone mocking suicide.
It is not up for anyone to decide how a particular trauma impacts someone’s life. It is not okay to joke about things like sexual assault or suicide and then wonder why people are triggered.
Trigger warnings, despite the negative connotation associated with them, are absolutely necessary and were invented so that everyone’s experiences and emotions can be accepted.