What is a trigger?
A trigger is something that evokes a strong negative response in the viewer/reader. A trigger may cause an intense reaction such as a panic attack, flashback, or symptoms associated with PTSD. It may invoke aspects of a persons mental illness or it may cause great anguish to the person viewing or reading it.
A trigger warning alerts the reader/viewer to the fact that a discussion contains potentially distressing material.
A trigger warning (TW) is a short note before a blog post, picture, video, or other content that warns readers/viewers about an aspect of the content that may trigger them. At the very least, it allows for people to assess their current mental state before continuing to consume content that may negatively alter their wellbeing.
Why do you use trigger warnings?
Trigger warnings are used at NOWSA to preserve the conference as a safe and inclusive space for all attendees wishing to engage in discussions while at the conference. The NOWSA Organising Committee values the mental health of others, and understands that sometimes these warnings are needed to continue to overcome, heal, and avoid content that would negatively impact on an individual.
How do I format a trigger warning?
For NOWSA attendees, it is important to include trigger warnings in the published description of your workshop and at the beginning of the workshop, and to then give a quick break for people to be able to leave inconspicuously. It is also beneficial to give another quick trigger warning immediately before discussing the topic.
For example, if you are presenting a written piece of work that details an experience of sexual assault, at the beginning of the piece you may write:
“TW: sexual assault; sexual harassment.”
For spoken trigger warning, you may say, for example:
“I would like to trigger warn that I am about to go into a detailed discussion about an experience of sexual assault. Please feel free to leave at any time throughout this discussion if you wish.”
Attendees should also make efforts to drop trigger warnings in general discussion, conference floor and workshops.
When you do warn about triggers, please be respectful, make sure you cover as many as you can think of, be clear, add extra emphasis if needed, and only warn about things that are triggers. To trigger warn unnecessarily undermines the system because it puts ‘being annoyed’ or ‘being mildly angry’ alongside ‘being greatly distressed or triggered’.
Here is a more extensive list:
Please note this is still a work in progress, and don’t hesitate to send the NOWSA Organising Committee an email if there is something you think should be added.