Commentary

Why We Shouldn’t Be Fighting Over Trigger Warnings

Screen shot of an article about Snow White with a content notice about torture and self mutilation.

This notice about Disney Princess origin stories alerts some people they may not like the content, while getting others interested with a morbidly intriguing teaser.

Here at Mythcreants, we’re not afraid to go to battle for something we believe in. But some things shouldn’t be a fight – there’s no real reason to fight over them. So it is with trigger warnings. In case you’ve missed all the debate, a trigger warning is some text you might see at the beginning of a piece of writing that alerts readers about dark subject matter featured in the text, for example, sexual assault.

However, I think calling them “trigger warnings” is already misleading. It reinforces a specific assumption about the people who want these warnings (they have PTSD) and a specific assumption about the effect that the content being labeled has on them (they will be triggered). These assumptions may be true, but if you’re a writer who needs to choose whether to use these notices, it doesn’t matter. Debates over the psychological effects of content are red herrings that prevent us from seeing this issue for what it is.

That’s why at Mythcreants, we call them content notices. And the first thing you need to know about content notices is that they are labels. This may sound simple or obvious, but it’s important to understand what that means.

You’re Surrounded by Content Labels

At Mythcreants, we have lots of labels.

  • Category labels appear above every article title. For instance, this articles is “Commentary.” Others might say “Wordbuilding,” “Writing,” or “Roleplaying.”
  • Below the title, there’s text stating whom the article is by and when the article was published.
  • At the bottom of most articles, we have “Read more” with a list of linked tags.
  • To separate them from articles, podcasts start their titles with a numeral, and they often have a special image we use repeatedly. 
  • On our stories, we have genre labels, mood labels, and little notes estimating how long it takes to read each story.
  • If the article is part of a series, there’s a colored box at the top alerting readers that it is and a link to the series as a whole.
  • If the article contains potential spoilers or unpleasant content that we think some people would care about, it has a notice.
  • Oh yeah, and there’s the title of the article itself, probably the most important label there is. 

All of these labels have the same purpose – to improve the visitor’s experience by helping them distinguish the content they want to read from the content they don’t want to read. Sure, some labels have other purposes too. My name at the top is also used to give me credit for my work. But if you click on it, you’ll get a list of articles by me. It’s another way to help people find the content they want.

To make content successful, you have to connect it with the people who are looking for it. When you mislead people about your content, you end up lowering the number of readers who appreciate your work and replacing them with people who feel lied to. You may get high page hits with a clever but misleading title, but if you want real fans or repeat visitors, it’s not a good move.

So it wouldn’t be good for Mythcreants if people who like to read articles stumble on a podcast page, only to be disappointed when they see an audio player. We also don’t want writers to start reading a roleplaying post and then discover it doesn’t apply to them. We don’t want people reading an article to find a spoiler that ruins their experience of a story they were looking forward to seeing, and we don’t want someone running into unpleasant content they weren’t expecting.

Of all those labels plastered everywhere on our site every day, the only one that anyone objects to are the content notices. This is especially strange because they are almost identical to spoiler notices in regards to form and function. So why do content notices piss people off when spoiler notices don’t? I’m certain it’s because almost everyone is familiar with the experience of having a story spoiled. Since they have experienced the disappointment of spoiling firsthand, they have empathy for people who don’t want to read spoilers. But many people haven’t experienced what it’s like to be negatively affected by unpleasant content, at least not to the same degree. Without that firsthand experience, there’s little empathy.

Labels Are Important When People Want Them

It’s the desire for a label that matters, not the reasons. If you open a debate over whether someone’s reasons for wanting a label are valid, you’re already engaged in discrediting and dismissing their desire. Unless you’re fascinated by psychological trivia, there’s no other reason to have that debate.

For instance, I only want to read fiction that’s fantasy, science fiction, horror, or some other form of speculative fiction. Do publishers or booksellers waste their time discussing whether such genre preferences are reasonable or valid? Of course not. What matters to them is that those preferences exist. That’s why they carefully cultivate manuscripts according to genre demand and organize books for sale by genre.

The preference for content notices may not be universal, but the people who want them really want them. Let’s say that instead of displaying category labels above blog post titles, I posted a link to another page where someone could see the category of an article. Though almost everyone benefits from category labels, very few people would visit another page to see one. But the people who want content notices? I would expect almost all of them to visit that other page. In a print novel, you could put them on a back page in tiny text and upside down. Many people will get out a magnifying glass before they will give up on the content notice. But since getting out a magnifying glass every time would be exhausting, they might also just forgo material they can’t trust to post clear notices.

With each Mythcreants story, there’s a little “View Content Notices” link at the top. It appears for every story regardless of whether there’s any content notices for that story, and you have to click it to see the notices. We do this because there are spoilers in there. I’ve posted no warning about those spoilers, but I have yet to hear a complaint about that. For the visitors who want content notices, knowing ahead whether there’s unpleasant content is more important than whether the story is spoiled. But when I messed up and didn’t include a content notice for a story that needed one, I heard about that from readers.

Along with the strength of the desire, the number of people who want a label also matters. I don’t have statistics, but I personally know many people who want content notices, and I frequently see and hear from them online. That’s enough for me.

Use Content Notices to Fill Labeling Gaps

If your book is called Wraith McBlade the Body Slicer, having a content notice about graphic violence is obviously unnecessary. Everyone can tell from your title that your work contains graphic violence. In fact, if it doesn’t have violence at all, you’ll want another label of some form to clarify that.

Content notices are needed the most when there is no other labeling or outward signs of unpleasant content. The story that I neglected to put an important notice on not only didn’t have that notice but also had the “fun” label, which is only supposed to be for stories with no content notices at all. So if your book looks like a heart-warming story with light family drama, but it contains child abuse, you definitely want a content notice on that. If nothing else, it will reduce the chance that readers will get really pissed off at that point and then leave your book a bad review.

If the work is large, it may be helpful to specify notices for particular pages or chapters. You’ll lose fewer readers if anyone who doesn’t want to read unpleasant material can just skip those parts.

What type of content should you include a notice for? There’s no clear-cut answer to this. Again, it’s based on what people happen to want for whatever reason. However, people seem to care the most about the following:

  • Any type of abuse
  • Sexual Assault
  • Suicide
  • Torture
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD flashbacks or panic attacks
  • Bigoted language
  • Major character death
  • Harm to children
  • Pregnancy loss

Any other type of gritty content that readers wouldn’t expect is something you could consider.

The more graphic description you have of the unpleasant content, the more readers will want to know about it ahead of time. In most speculative fiction, vague violence is considered standard and does not need a content notice. However, if you go into graphic detail about physical injuries, you might want readers to know.

For our stories, I try to put anything in the content notices that someone might even remotely care about. The only people who see the notices are those who deliberately click to view them, and for these people, more information is better. If the ending is sad, I’ll put something in; not everyone is in a good place to read a downer of a story. In one notice, I even mention the story has “an eerie tone.” That’s definitely not something you need to put in a content notice. I just do it because my mother, for instance, doesn’t like reading creepy stories, and so why not?

For Consumers, Labels Are About Choice

If you’re a writer or a publisher, you have a business incentive to use labels. But on the consumer end, demanding labels serves one purpose: to give yourself a choice about what you consume. This comes up with food all the time. Consumers want food items to be labeled so they can choose whether to consume high fructose corn syrup, or gluten, or allergens. Consumers want very different things from their food, and having those labels allows them to make the choice for themselves about what they want to put into their bodies. Similarly, content labels allow people to choose what they put into their minds.

How to label your own products is up to you. But if you criticize others for using labels or asking for labels, what you are opposing is someone else’s ability to choose what they consume. Viewed from this lens, arguments against content notices are at best overblown and at worst cruel.

Are Content Notices Censorship?

Some have argued that content notices are a form of censorship. Again, a content notice is a label, and a label in itself places no restriction on someone’s ability to consume content or on the producer’s ability to distribute it. However, it’s technically possible for some authority to use labels to classify content as restricted. The only labels I know that are used this way are ratings on movies and video games. But these are efforts to keep children away from content that’s considered too mature for them, and they both depend on parental discretion. They don’t restrict an adult’s freedom to consume what they want or to let their children consume what they want.

It’s incredibly unlikely that content notices will ever be used for this kind of censorship. Most children will struggle to read adult literature anyway, and publishers know better than to put torture scenes in children’s books. But let’s say novels did start having rating labels on them, and bookstores stopped selling books with a “mature” label to anyone under 18. Would that be such a big deal? No one protests movie ratings.

Oppressive governments aside, censorship is driven by wide-scale moral panics about society at large. Content notices are driven by people who just want to make informed choices for themselves.

Do Content Notices Limit Discourse?

Some will argue that if people have the option to not read about abuse or torture, etc., it will damage society by limiting conversation about those topics. But this argument could be made about every label out there. There are certainly people who feel that writers should be reading outside their genre, and I’m a flagrant violator of that rule, but no one wants to force me to read boring books about some midlife crisis. No one has discussed obscuring genres on all books so that readers can no longer choose the genre they’re reading.

And let’s say we decided to engage in this weird dystopian reverse-censorship, removing labels in an effort to force people to read stuff. What would we actually gain? As soon as someone discovers that they are reading something they don’t want to read, they’ll put it down. Forcing people to engage in discourse won’t result in meaningful discourse. If we really want to improve discourse, we should give people access to a variety of content and provide good information about that content. We shouldn’t restrict their choices and make them ignorant.

No one wants to live in a society where they have to start reading every article or book just to figure out what it is. People who object to labels will never protest the labels they personally use. Instead, they target the people who fervently search for signs that a story might ruin their day. These people are the ones who shouldn’t get labels for some reason.* This is hypocritical and mean.

Should We Trigger People Because It’s Good for Them?

This argument states that we shouldn’t use content notices because the people who want them are wrong about their own psychological health. Instead of letting them make their own choices, it’s better to force them to do what we think is best for them.

Do I really need to explain what’s wrong with this?

Okay, let’s say just for the sake of argument that there’s some mental health benefit to being exposed to unpleasant content that people might normally avoid. We also know there’s a health benefit to eating vegetables. Do we force people to eat vegetables? No. Instead, someone can discuss their health with their doctor, and their doctor might recommend they eat more vegetables. Then that person will choose whether or not to take that advice, and if they do, they choose when they will eat those vegetables and what form they will eat them in. Whether it’s food or content, everyone has a right to choose what they consume.

Does Using Content Notices Mean We’re Pandering?

Are we pandering here at Mythcreants? Well, we do offer advice free of charge. Sometimes we’ll even write blog posts on topics that people ask about. In fact, I wouldn’t have written this very article if someone hadn’t asked about it. Oh dear, we’re pandering all over the place!

Any smart business or organization panders. The first thing you learn in marketing is to know who your target audience is, and then pander pander pander. When people complain about pandering, it’s not actually pandering they have a problem with. Their problem is that the pandering is not for their own benefit. If that’s your issue, then you’re right – not everything is about you. I know, it’s terrible.


We recommend using content notices because it’s a smart business decision and a nice thing to do for people. The same goes for all the other content labels people use every day.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

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Comments

  1. Dave L

    In some cases a person might be somewhat sensitive to certain content. They can read about it, but they need to brace themselves ahead of time. I know this is true because I fit this type

    Are you familiar w/ “Kids in Mind” (https://kids-in-mind.com/)? They list all adult content in the most recent movies, mentioning most things that might be disturbing. Of course, the review itself might be difficult to read, but if you can’t read the review, then you’ll know to stay the @#$% away from the movie

  2. liber

    The only argument i’ve found against the use of trigger warnings is that it’s “annoying” or that it’s “a spoiler”. However, it’s never discussed the discomfort that comes with seeing content one finds unpleasant, and that baffles me. How is being mildly annoyed compared to a potential panic attack? Or how your discomfort compares to MY discomfort for reading content i don’t want to read? Why is yours more important than mine, or someone else we both don’t know about, but may be part of the readership? Who gets to decide whose feelings are more important? Probably not you, me, or anyone but the author

    I just don’t understand how people can be so closed that they can’t fathom that maybe other people’s feelings matter too?

    Amazing article by the way, as always

    • Chris Winkle

      Editor’s note: I removed a comment because of ableist content. We welcome discussion but we do not allow harmful generalizations.

      • Michael Campbell

        Okay, I’m curious.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        The reason we removed the comment in question was that it equated mental illness, both generally and a few specific ones, with a lack of empathy. This kind of equation leads to marginalizing disabled folk, because it lumps them in with poorly behaving abled folk. This is a stereotype that disabled folk spend a lot of time fighting, and we will not let it be spread, even if there was no harmful intent.

        I hope that answers any questions you have.

  3. Nathaniel

    I live under a rock, so I didn’t even realize there was any kind of debate about this, but you’ve made an excellent case for something that seems unnecessary to defend in the first place. The ONLY case against content notices that holds any water is that they may contain spoilers…but even then, there are plenty of ways to make the notices accessible but optional. And frankly, what one person stands to lose far outweighs what another person stands to gain from the absence of a content notice. Speaking from experience, a false sense of security about what you’re about to experience can screw you up for life.

    • Michael Campbell

      There is another argument.
      The eight seconds I spend reading the warning was 8 seconds on my life that I won’t be getting back.
      But again, it’s based on one person’s time being more important that someone else’s pain.

      • Cay Reet

        That argument doesn’t really work, either. If there’s no content which I feel is triggering to me, why should I read the content warning at all? I can just ignore it and start the story proper. But for those who need it, the content warnings or labels do provide an important service.

        • Michael Campbell

          Where’s your sense of civic duty!?! Going through life without reading warning labels on products!?!

  4. Stephanie

    My most recent book features an Army veteran with PTSD, and there are flashbacks, anger issues, and alcohol abuse in my book. I haven’t actually used a content warning, but my book description clearly states that the character has PTSD and that his symptoms are getting worse. I have wondered if I need to state it more clearly, but to me it seems self-evident that if it’s stated on the back of the book that a major part of the character’s journey is dealing with PTSD, there’s going to be a lot of PTSD-related stuff in the book. Am I being obtuse?

    • Chris Winkle

      Well, consider the perspective of some one who really wants to read your book, but also really wants to avoid something that may or may not be included in PTSD symptoms. Without clarifying what PTSD symptoms are involved, they won’t know whether they’re up for reading your book, and so they probably won’t read it. If you have the ability to put a little text somewhere in the front saying a full content notice is available on page ###, then you can go in detail there without spoiling anything for anyone else.

  5. Shrike

    I agree with almost all of this, but disagree with one sentence:

    “No one protests movie ratings.”

    Not really true, a lot of people protest movie ratings. Not for their existence, but for their lack of transparency, their arbitrary and bigoted application, and the movements in many states to GIVE them the force of law instead of them remaining advisory only.

    • GeniusLemur

      But that’s people protesting the details of movie ratings. To be relevant to this, people would have to protest the mere existence of movie ratings.

  6. Laura Ess

    Perhaps not relevant to this discussion, as it’s about a film, but recently I watched INCREDIBLES 2. I have a history of epilepsy when I was young, and the strobe filled sequences induced a huge amount of anxiety in me! The only way I could look at it was looking half away from the screen, and with my spectacles off. No warning about that at all. Did they not consider epilepsy?

    Of course the strobing effect is generally misunderstood. I saw an online course about animating GIFs which gave a warning about using a flickering effect. But mostly it’s not flickering, but STROBING that’s most likely to have this effect. What’s the difference? Strobing alternates dark and light, whereas flickering just alternates the image.

    Anyway, content notices – good idea, but they need to be accurate.

    • Michael Campbell

      Well said.
      Once I heard that Disney had released a warning about strobing; I made up my mind not to see The Incredibles 2.
      Just saying.

      • Laura Ess

        They released a warning? There was nothing about that in the cinema or their website.

    • River

      I discovered the film had strobing only by accident, thankfully before I saw the film. I’m SO glad I didn’t experience that in the cinema. Theatre performances and the ballet (etc) are usually really good about putting strobe warnings, movies need them too.

    • Qalmlea

      I saw a movie review that warned about the strobing, so I opted not to see Incredibles II in the theaters. I have not seen anything official warning about it, but it sure seems like there ought to be. [I’m not epileptic, but strobe effects tend to give me nausea and/or headaches]

  7. River

    I agree with this completely. Some days I will read ‘gritty’ content, but other days it’s the last thing I want. I want to be able to choose, and everyone else should be able to, as well.

  8. Michael Campbell

    One of the odd discoveries that has been made over the decades. Since the 1980s records & CDs have had to have the “explicit lyrics” warning label if the product contained explicit lyrics.
    And the presence of that label actually drove up sales of that album.
    Indeed some record companies placed the label on music that didn’t warrant the label in order to cash in on the bump in sales.

    Censorship is about taking away people’s right to choose.
    Tools, for informed consent, can not therefore be; censorship.

    • Cay Reet

      Good point.

      Censorship means nobody can read the bood or watch the movie or TV series the way it was meant to be, because certain things have to be cut out (or the book/movie/series will not be available at all).

      Content warnings allow for people who can’t deal with specific things (for whatever reason, that’s personal and nobody else’s business) to avoid them without taking stories which include them from everyone.

    • Laura Ess

      The Australian radio channel TRIPLE J broadcasts lots of contemporary, local and youth music, often full of expletives. They often announce “Naughty language” or “Bad Language Alert” before playing a song. That means though that they can play it anytime during the day. Otherwise, I think local guidelines are that such songs are only broadcast after 9pm.

      • Michael Campbell

        I suspect Triple J runs under the ABC charter.
        I.e. legally obligated to broadcast music that otherwise wouldn’t get airplay.

        It was only after the B52’s were given airplay on Count Down (OZ ABC TV) and then got commercial radio-play down-under, that US radio stations saw them as being more than a college niche’ act.

        • Laura Ess

          Countdown was really influential. I saw the B52s live some years ago at Mittagong, at a “Day on the Green”, along with Mental as Anything and The Proclaimers. It was a cool gig.

          • Michael Campbell

            Laura:

            I don’t use Twitter either. I found out listening to Channel Seven’s news…or maybe ABC news 24. It really depends on what mum was watching at the time. She is something of a news junky.

            I’m glad to hear that you’re a Novacastrian.
            In the interests of reciprocity, I am a Sydneysider. Go the mighty Eels.

            For what it’s worth, I still find myself calling Event Cinemas by it’s old name. To me it’ll always be Greater Union.

          • Michael Campbell

            Laura:
            You might want to read some stuff in the Graphic Novel thread.

  9. Brigitta M.

    The content warnings here are perfectly fine and wonderful and great. As a sufferer of PTSD I like the precision of a mild spoiler so I don’t go into a panic attack.

    That said, there are a lot of places that just use vague content info like “may contain content that some readers will find disturbing.” Um…I read horror, I write horror, so that’s a lot of time spent wondering whether if I should risk spending “spoons” or if I should just skip it. In those cases, I wonder why they have the warning at all.

    I don’t know. It’s better than it used to be. At least people are trying. Those that are complaining are likely too young or simply immature, so I don’t worry about them

  10. Kdisidj

    I’m can be an insensitive bastard sometimes, but I don’t see why people feel trigger warnings are a problem. I mean, what’s wrong with saying “this book/movie contains scenes that some people may find upsetting”?

    I think some people are born with this bizarre need to be outraged. About anything. If there is no real thing to be outraged about, they will make something up, just so that they can go “Aaaargh!”

  11. VoidCaller

    For real, most of people seem to have no problem with the warnings against theexplic content. The only problem I have found is that some the trigger warnings are horribly misused.
    Nothing pisses me of as much as people taking a good idea and twisting it. In this case it is all about individuals demanding the trigger warnings on whim.

  12. Bryony

    Content notice: contains content notices.

  13. C

    The way I see it, adding content notices takes thirty seconds out of my day, which is much less time lost compared to an unprepared person losing hours to panic attacks, flashbacks, crying, throwing up, etc. because they were surprised by a triggering scene in something they thought was safe.

    People with mental issues get little to no warning for triggering things in their everyday lives. They may have to walk around with their guard up all the time, which is exhausting. I think they deserve a place where they can let their guard down and feel safe.

  14. Pascal Martinolli

    Some evidence-based material : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005791618301137

    Highlights:
    • Trigger warnings increase peoples’ perceived emotional vulnerability to trauma.
    • Trigger warnings increase peoples’ belief that trauma survivors are vulnerable.
    • Trigger warnings increase anxiety to written material perceived as harmful.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Editor’s Note: A cursory reading of this study’s main page shows that its results do not match its own highlights. To break down the Results section…

      “Participants in the trigger warning group believed themselves and people in general to be more emotionally vulnerable if they were to experience trauma.”

      This has nothing to do with trigger warnings, it simply indicates a belief people hold about trauma and vulnerability. If anything, it demonstrates a flaw in the study, because it seems as if they were selecting for specific beliefs when sorting people into groups.

      “Participants receiving warnings reported greater anxiety in response to reading potentially distressing passages, but only if they believed that words can cause harm.”

      Yes, if you tell someone they have to read something they think is harmful, that might just give them more anxiety. That’s why trigger warnings are about letting people make informed choices, as well as letting them mentally prepare themselves.

      “Warnings did not affect participants’ implicit self-identification as vulnerable, or subsequent anxiety response to less distressing content.”

      This is oddly written, but as far as I can tell it means that seeing a trigger warning did not change the participants existing beliefs about vulnerability and trauma, which is… yeah? That sounds pretty obvious.

      TL:DR. This study’s “highlights” are not supported by the results, and we don’t recommend anyone waste their time reading it. Further, the highlights are predicated on the toxic idea that other people should be able to dictate your behavior because they think they know what’s good for you. No amount of data will make that okay.

      • Bubbles

        “No amount of data will make that okay?” Well, isn’t other people dictating your behavior the whole point of laws? Aren’t many of the recommendations on this website saying what you should or shouldn’t do? Can you please clarify what you mean by “dictate your behavior,” and why you want to ignore evidence in this case? (I’m not saying the study mentioned is correct. It may very well be flawed and inaccurate. This is a more general principle about evidence I am stating.) I hope I’m not offending anybody :), this is actually just a clarification I want to ask.

        • Oren Ashkenazi

          The point of laws, when they govern individual behavior, is to stop people from doing things that harm others, not to force them into some hypothetical best lifestyle. That’s why we’re all allowed to binge on as much chocolate and booze as we like, no matter how unhealthy it is.

          • Michael Campbell

            Responsible service of alcohol laws?

            Laws forbidding foreign nationals donating to US election campaigns? (how could a gift of money harm people!?!)

            There’s even a law in Los Vegas that forbids people from transporting known prostitutes in their automobiles.

            Mandatory seat-belt laws. (The person is; only harming themselves, right!?!)
            Mandatory bicycle helmet laws. (as above.)

            A lot of laws are about mandating* people “living their hypothetical best lifestyle”.

            *I’m not endorsing those laws, just saying they exist.

          • Oren Ashkenazi

            Unless you’re suggesting people should be forced to read material they don’t want to read than this nitpick is irrelevant.

          • Bubbles

            That makes sense. I think the “evidence” I was talking about is whether these “content notices” actually help people. Even if this particular study was flawed, maybe there are other studies that aren’t so flawed. The argument is that content notices do cause unavoidable harm to people who happen to read them, and therefore they can be prohibited because, as you said, laws limit conduct that can harm others. Again, I’m not saying such an argument is true (I don’t consider it very likely, in fact), but that on all sides of the debate, evidence IS necessary, not merely unsupported claims.

          • Cay Reet

            From what I have heard from people who do read the notices, because they have specific anxieties or other reasons to avoid specific content, the notices are nothing compared to completely unpreparedly stumble across whatever causes them to have an attack. The point of the notices is that people can read them and decide whether or not to read the text at all – or see the movie or play the game etc. The notice warning of the content is nothing against seeing or reading the content as a such. Reading the word ‘rape’ or ‘torture’ or ‘death of a parent’ (just as an example) is much less traumatizing than unpreparedly reading or watching a scene in which that happens.

          • Michael Campbell

            Pretty sure that saying it’s “then” not “than” would be nitpicking.

            But basically you can’t have it both ways.
            You can’t say a dictatorship is okay if it’s a socially benevolent dictatorship…and also claim that all forms of dictatorship are automatically bad.

  15. Michael Campbell

    And now we wait for the self enlightenment to materialise.

    • Bubbles

      Sorry, but I’m not sure what you meant by this. Can you explain, by any chance?

      • Michael Campbell

        Well it was a more complete sentence than Pot Kettle Black.

  16. Michael Campbell

    As a side note.
    Back during the first Gulf War, there were two British units that were both given “burial detail duties”.
    But as an outworking of logistics; one group received post-incident psychological debriefing and the other group didn’t.
    Long term tracking of these soldiers actually shows a slightly higher rate of P.T.S.D. and suicide, for the group that received the psychological treatment.

    So if there was evidence that “trigger warning” do in fact cause more harm than they offset. I for one, would not automatically ignore that evidence.

    • C

      It’s an unfortunately unwinnable debate not posting trigger warnings means getting comments from people who said they quit reading because it was too much and they weren’t prepared for something like that. -_-;

      • C

        UGH! There’s supposed to be a ‘because’ after ‘unwinnable’. I proofread, too! Grrr.

        • C

          And my correction is wrong. I got phone calls three times trying to correct it. I GIVE UP!

      • Michael Campbell

        Well there are some people in this world who don’t want to win, because winning puts an end to the fighting.

        Ultimately what you publish has to be what you consent to putting you name to.

        “To thine own self be true.” or “No man can serve two masters.”
        Basically the life lesson is; “You have a responsibility to yourself to be a you that you can live with.”

    • Cay Reet

      The difference between trigger warnings and your example is that those units both had to do the duty. Trigger warnings mean that someone who knows they can’t stomach something will not read a text with a trigger warning saying this something will happen (or watch a video labelled as a such). They will not face the problem and thus not the trouble through it.

      One group received psychological assistance and one didn’t and you presume psychological help has done more damage, because there was a higher rate of PTSD and suicide in the group with the help. First of all, there might simply have been a higher percentage of people who tended towards PTSD or suicide in the group with the psychological help. Second, there might have been a lot of undiagnosed PTSD in the other group (because of stuff like ‘real men have no psychological problems’). Third, the bodies to bury might have been off far worse (or there might have been a lot more ‘horrible’ bodies, such as those of children) in the group which showed more PTSD and suicide cases. Without getting really, really deep into this situation, without analysing all possible factors which might have contributed to the result, you can’t say for sure how the result happened. That’s the problem with statistics: the way you look at them has a very big influence on what you read out of them.

      Cause and effect aren’t always that clear-cut. I drop a heavy item and my foot hurts – chances are we have a case of cause and effect there and the item hit my foot on its way down. I curse loudly and a crucifix falls from the wall – is there a connection as well? Clearly not, but some people will think so. There are a lot of factors which might have something to do with the outcome of a situation (which is why, for example, we still can’t reliably forecast weather – the further from the present, the less precise the forecast, because weather systems are extremely complex, just like the human mind). Makeup of the two units, makeup of their missions, factors like what else the soldiers did during their deployment, information on the type of psychological help, information on how many soldiers might have gone for help after the end of their time in the army, information on the life of the suicide victims right prior to the suicide, possible substance abuse, personal problems … there’s a lot of factors which might explain the facts and have nothing to do with the theory of ‘psychological help made it worse.’

      On the other hand, a lot of people say they want and need trigger warnings to keep their own lives together, so I’d suggest erring on the side of caution and giving them those warnings. If a person is not fazed about what they read or see, they can just ignore the warnings, but for those who suffer from PTSD and similar troubles, it’s a relief.

      • Michael Campbell

        So what are you really arguing?
        That we need more wars so that statistical idiosyncrasies can be ironed out by the law of large numbers!?!

        • Cay Reet

          Not to use such an example to say ‘trigger warnings may do more bad than good.’ Because your example doesn’t prove either.

          • Michael Campbell

            I wasn’t attempting to prove.
            I was attempting to shine light on the possibility that it could one day be proven, that such warnings do; do more harm than good.
            And that therefore people should remain open-minded.

            Also “more bad than good” is one concept so the word “either” is confusing. You should have probably used the word “that” rather than “either”.

  17. Feto
    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Editor’s note: This study has already been linked in a previous comment, and I’ve already laid out why it’s results say nothing about trigger warnings.

    • Johnathan Preshaw

      Hahahahaha the “results” indicate that some people sometimes got a little anxious about what they were going to read based on a trigger warning, but that it didn’t increase their overall anxiety, and the amount of people that that happened to was not very many.

      Also even when trying to make a “negative” out of trigger warnings it fails to even attempt to weigh it against the valuable positive benefit of trigger warnings.

      Kind of an adorable attempt to turn a common sense cause/effect into something scary, being told scary things are about to happen SURPRISINGLY makes people be more alert or “anxious” about upcoming passages, but cause no measurable damage by doing so!

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