You Don’t Need a “Trigger Warning.” You need Treatment.

You Don’t Need a “Trigger Warning.” You need Treatment. September 14, 2016

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H/T NYTimes.

According to Harvard Psychologist, Dr. Richard McNally…

Proponents of trigger warnings are deeply concerned about the emotional well-being of students, especially those with trauma histories. Yet lost in the debate are two key points: Trauma is common, but P.T.S.D. is rare. 

Epidemiological studies show that many people are exposed to trauma in their lives, and most have had transient stress symptoms. But only a minority fails to recover, thereby developing P.T.S.D. Students with P.T.S.D. are those most likely to have adverse emotional reactions to curricular material, not those with trauma histories whose acute stress responses have dissipated. 

However, trigger warnings are countertherapeutic because they encourage avoidance of reminders of trauma, and avoidance maintains P.T.S.D. Severe emotional reactions triggered by course material are a signal that students need to prioritize their mental health and obtain evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral therapies that will help them overcome P.T.S.D. These therapies involve gradual, systematic exposure to traumatic memories until their capacity to trigger distress diminishes. 

Rather than issuing trigger warnings, universities can best serve students by facilitating access to effective and proven treatments for P.T.S.D. and other mental health problems.

 

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