Why we use Trigger Warnings

Meredith Ablao, News Editor


The University of Chicago sent letters to incoming freshman stating:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

These letters caused students at the University of Chicago to feel unsafe and unprotected because trigger warnings are a necessity. According to oxforddictionaries.com, a trigger warning is a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental disorder that is triggered by an event such as war, and assault. People who experience this condition are legitimate, and just as much human as anyone else. They may suffer from night terrors, panic attacks, depression, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts.  With this being said, if colleges, and other resources do not use trigger warnings, then more and more of these people will feel ignored, aggravated, and put down.

People who have experienced traumatic events, like violence, rape, assault, or simply struggle with mental health issues will always be at a disadvantage if trigger warnings are not used. Trigger warnings aren’t ways to just avoid debate or create controversy, they are simply there for building a safe environment on campuses. Also these warnings are possibly lifesaving. By getting rid of trigger warnings, completely eliminates the students’ feeling of protection, and support; making feel students weak, ignored, and “powerless.”

Students who are susceptible to mental health problems, such as PTSD or panic disorders, do not deserve to experience topics that may cause aggravation due to non essential triggering, therefore we must use these warnings to help the students prepare themselves for what they will be enduring.

Furthermore, there is a problem- people think that trigger warnings can get people out of participating. That, in fact, is not always the case. “TW’s” are just small reminders of  “hey, you are about to watch something that might affect you for these reasons…” With this being said, “TW’s” are not just excuses to leave the room, it is to mentally prepare people for the upcoming event.  A social psychologist/writer in Chicago stated, “I was violently sexually assaulted while I was in graduate school, and later, I was stalked and harassed by an ex-partner. These experiences were harrowing, and left emotional and psychological wounds, as well as triggers. Trigger warnings help me to emotionally prepare for discussions of rape, stalking, and assault, and allow me to filter out or avoid disturbing content when I’m having a particularly rough day and am not up for it.” This woman’s words help me understand that trigger warnings are actually helpful, because real people experience things that we cannot see on the outside.


Research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness provides that more than 60 percent of college students dropped out of college due to conflicts with mental health and trauma. This is caused by people struggling through pain, fear, and panic. 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness, and alerting all students to potential triggering/harm  is just the respectful thing to do.