Trigger Warning!

A debate I’ve seen a seen a lot of coverage of in recent weeks is arguing the case for the use of ‘trigger warnings’ in classrooms.

A trigger is a term used for something that sets off a symptom of a mental health condition. they are most commonly associated with PTSD; for example loud bangs or multiple flashes in a fireworks display may cause a veteran to have a flash-back.  They are also used in the treatment of eating disorders too, a common example would be numbers “oh this person is the same height as me but only weighs X amount whereas I weigh Y amount. I am not skinny enough” and thus, a purging or restriction cycle may be ‘triggered’.

A trigger warning is a tool that is often used on mental health related forums and facebook groups to protect it’s more vulnerable members- who as far as we know maybe in hospital for their condition or really not coping well at all- from being triggered by a post.

The debate over whether trigger warnings should be used in class rooms is to protect vulnerable students who have suffered psychological, physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives.

I think it’s fantastic that students are having this discussion to help protect their most vulnerable members but I honestly do not believe that a blanket trigger warning over certain topics is the correct thing to do in a classroom.

In my school we had a ‘learning support’ system. Where kids who had any sort of difficulty with a particular subject were able to take their lessons with a more supportive tuition. For example, someone who was falling behind in maths would be able to go to the learning support room where they were able to do their work and had access to a teacher or support teacher who was able to help them as and when they needed. Rather than having to fight for the attention of a teacher who is trying to teach a class of 30 kids, and their questioning wouldn’t disrupt the class.

When I had my issues in school the staff were super helpful in accommodating me to these classes and were able to tell my teachers what had happened so as I got reintroduced to classes they were able to keep an eye on me.

The number of kids who are vulnerable enough to need a trigger warning on content is realistically going to be very small per school so the school should know of the child’s situation. Rather than making the whole class sit through a trigger warning and that particular student have to get up and leave because they don’t think they can deal with the content in front of their peers, which is highly embarrassing for them and a distraction for the other students, I would rather see teachers see that child before the lesson and explain that the content may be triggering and that they can take the lesson in a learning support room.

If the content is on DVD then chances are they will be losing out but if they content is written or on the internet then the child will be able to see the content at their own pace and in the safety of the learning support room which has much less people in it.

A person, regardless of age, with an issue shouldn’t be taught to avoid their triggers because then they will never be able to get better. A trigger warning at the start of a class simply gives the student a choice to view or not to view, which if they choose to not view means they will be falling behind and it won’t be helping them get through their issue. If they can view at their own pace in a safe environment it means they are getting the same education as the rest of their class but the content is in their control so hopefully they won’t get overwhelmed by the content.

I hope this makes sense. If you have any questions please do leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

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