How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health On Campus

Words used intentionally or unintentionally can convey violence that must be controlled at all costs. This is how trigger warnings hurt mental health on campus.

So how trigger warnings are hurting mental health on campus? A study says this warning is hampering mental health rather than helping the survivor. It is possible for a student who is eager to use a trigger warning not to do an assignment or to impact relationships with professors and other students negatively.

In this article, we will discuss how trigger warning hurts mental health on campus and will share several incidents where trigger warning is reported as a responsible factor for hampering mental health on campus.

What Does the Word “Trigger” Refer?

Analogously, following the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a trigger is an event or process triggered by something mechanical.

On the other hand, triggers also referred to as stressors or stimuli in mental health, are situations or actions that take to an unpleasant emotional state.

Trigger warnings came based on post-traumatic reactions from the psychiatric literature. And post-traumatic disorder is a mental health problem where a person forgets a terrifying event like an assault or disaster. Thus, a process rapid, unintended, and automatic process may cause the re-experiencing symptoms.

Likewise, warnings were used to alert those who had already suffered or experienced rape or physical assault. There is an argument about the preciseness of the name. Some suggest content trigger is the perfect one as a name.

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health

How Trigger Warnings Came On Campus?

In the late 90s, the expression of trigger warning first arises on the internet from feminist message boards. It stated that whenever a site posts a depiction and massage of rape, they have to put caution for the reader.

That is because people who went through this traumatic experience recall everything which could trigger a panic attack or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thus, soon this phrase caught the attention and was implemented to protect other sufferers and victims in a wide range. It includes eating disorders, sexual violence, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and domestic abuse.

Later, in early 2010, trigger warning issues arose in colleagues and universities in extended form. Protesters claimed that when course material explicitly deals with injustice, discrimination, and oppression, students could be painfully reminded of their experiences.

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health On Campus? Let see how with Example

Usually, a student passes their most important four years in the university and a place where they find a warning on what they should say, how to say, and teach them to have thin skin.

They are becoming less tolerant in this unpredictable world where unexpected news is a kind of routine—besides narrowing down a student's thinking area and capacity.

In education, a famous saying is “don't teach students how to think and what to think”, which is contradictory to a trigger warning. Socrates's teaching method also encourages critical thinking and questioning beyond the obvious.

This teaching technique sometimes leads to expressing discomfort or anger to understand the fact. When trigger warnings are implemented, students cannot express their ideas freely. They cannot show creativity; instead, they will be punished for discussing specific topics.

Teachers and Students will always be in fear of trigger warnings. So consequently, this will create an unhealthy atmosphere to grow and think.

  1. Trigger warning incidents in law class

Jeannie Suk wrote an article about an incident at Harvard university. In one incident, during law class, a female student asked her professor not to teach rape law, which violates the law and distresses students.

How logical it was to stop teaching rape law to students who will protect people in the future!

  • Trigger warning incident in Perdue University

In 2008 at perdue university, a white student was found guilty of racial prejudice for reading a book name Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book cover containing the Klan rally offended one of the student's co-workers.

That offended students who used to work as doorkeepers too. This incident was enough to find the white student guilty.

  • Trigger warning incident in The University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, arranged an event for a pet camel called Hump Day. Students protest and create an event claiming that it is a waste of money and cruel to animals, and this event's motive is to bully Middle Eastern people.

Instead, this idea came from a TV show. Later, the organizing committee announced that event would be postponed.

  • Effects of social media on trigger warning

On the other hand, social media also play a significant role in shifting the balance in relationships between teachers and students. Personal life assessment and judgment are increasing rapidly and decreasing mutual respect. Social media makes it easy to join any outrage and movement.

A trigger warning is broadly used, and “I am offended” is the ultimate trump card. A trigger warning is a subjective feeling, and teachers and students have no clue about this subjective assessment.

If university students use their emotions as a weapon or call for administrative proceedings will lead to countless conflicts. As a result, mutual love, respect friendship will be hampered to damage mental health.

Does Avoiding Trigger Warnings On Campus Help or Harm?

The effectiveness of trigger warnings is questionable. The journal Clinical Psychological Science reveals that trigger warning is not helpful but harmful to the survivor.

Payton Jones, a researcher at Harvard University, stated that damage survivors do not benefit from trigger warnings.

On campus, teachers or professors usually give warnings before stating something stressful. Usually, they allow students with distress to leave the classroom. In 2016, a survey results showed that half of the teachers give trigger warnings before discussing traumatic issues.

Jones mentioned that many experts suggested that the trigger warnings may create an unfeasible bubble, without negative thoughts, which would not prepare students for life beyond academia.

He also said that survivors who believe that trauma is an integral part of their life cant overcome trauma.According to boyson,avoiding fearful situationa is nto good because people dont expose themselves to fear and trauma ,increasing symptoms.

Likewise, Boysen suggested that what may trigger one is not specific, so it can not be intended. In his opinion, it is impossible to predict what will trigger as it is 100 percent unique and varies from individual to individual.

The Most Basic Principle Of Psychology

One of the most basic principles of phycology is facing your fear of returning to everyday life. Protecting individuals will not help the survivor rather this will narrow their world and prevent them from learning how to master anxiety.

For example, if someone has a height phobia, telling them not to visit those places is not the solution. You must tell them how to overcome, tips, tricks, and benefits of traveling to a higher place. Share some inspirational characters to motivate. All this is part of the basic principle of how to face and win against fear.

Research Shows Trigger Warnings Are Not Helpful For Trauma Survivors

Researchers have been trying to find out the truth behind trigger warnings for the past few years. In the "Trigger warning: Empirical evidence ahead" paper, Benjamin Bellet stated that it unintentionally weakens resilience.

Entitled "Helping or Harming? The Effect of Trigger Warnings on Individuals With Trauma Histories," Payton and Benjamin took 451 trauma survivors for their paper. It proved that trigger warning has little or no effect on survivors.

Accordingly, Mevagh Sanson did another study with his colleagues to examine mainly three symptoms of people's distress and took 1394 people. They concluded that trigger warnings do neither meaningfully help nor harm.


Trigger warning is a sign of how mentally fragile our society is becoming. When teaching and studying, it is appreciated if we avoid unintentional offenses but students should be taught the other important aspect of dealing with offenses.Trigger warning will be appreciated with but current study shows little or no effect but some harmful effect on survivor.

45 percent of teachers think trigger warnings will negatively affect the dynamic of the classroom, and 62 percent think they will negatively impact academic freedom. In order to improve the situation, everyone should play a role in restoring a healthy campus environment.

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