Don’t worry about trigger warnings

by Tori Hoeppner, University student

It’s frustrating to see all the negativity trigger warnings on campus have gotten, especially from students who don’t need them. It is frequently forgotten that trigger warnings aren’t supposed to keep students from exploring uncomfortable topics or ideas that counter their beliefs. They are used to keep safe students who need them. 
Trigger warnings are needed mostly by students who have post-traumatic stress disorder. If a student is triggered by a class topic or course, it can cause great harm to their mental health and create situations in which the student doesn’t feel safe. 
When triggered, the human brain can relive a traumatic experience as if it is currently happening. For those who are not given a warning of a possible trigger, this can throw them into panic attacks or desperate attempts to protect themselves. It is not something they can control in most cases, as their brain goes into the “fight or flight” response, especially when the trigger comes out of nowhere. 
I cannot speak for everyone, but as a student who suffers from PTSD, trigger warnings can be essential for me. If there were a trigger warning for class content that would affect me, I’d have the opportunity to prepare in advance and take necessary steps to make sure I could keep myself safe. Over the years, I’ve learned many useful grounding skills that can force my mind back into reality when I’m triggered or prepare me to be triggered without reacting in a harmful way. 
For those of you who are so worried that I and other students who need trigger warnings are running away from our problems or being coddled, you’re very wrong. I’ve spent many years in exposure therapy in an attempt to work through these triggers and process my trauma. And honestly, since many of you who are so upset about universities using trigger warnings don’t even need them, I think you can handle hearing a professor utter the words “trigger warning” so other students can remain safe.