This Is How ‘Trigger Warnings’ Can Help Battle Mental Health Issues

Danger sign on a fence
Unsplash / Joey Banks

In the past years, society rarely talked about mental health awareness and people with mental health issues; or even if they did, it wasn’t a prominent discussion topic before as compared to how much it is being talked about today worldwide.

In the middle of 2016, the topic of mental health awareness started to spread worldwide due to the sudden increase in mental health related issues in teenagers and those in early adulthood. The rates of teenagers with depression and anxiety increased by 70% compared to the last 25 years, while the suicide rates worldwide have increased by 60%. As this happened, the topic of mental health awareness and mental health issues began to take over every social media website, broadcasting networks and even publications.

Now Think About This.

Remember the old parenting tip that goes “Don’t let children watch violent shows! It might rub off on them and they might grow to be violent too” ? That’s why we make children watch educational TV shows and read educational books so that they’ll grow with an increased learning ability and good conduct.

In the case of the teen to adult generation, since mental health issues are the prominent or the “trending” topic of today’s youth, authors have published books about characters having severe mental health issues and graphically describing these characters’ emotions in their works.

Almost Every Novel On The Shelves Either Has Depression, Death, Or Anything Mental Health Related In It.

I understand that these books were written with the intention that those who have mental health issues would be able to relate to the characters and would not feel that they are alone, but it’s not the same case for every person — these novels might also trigger them as well. Graphic details of depressive feelings and anxiety might cause some to have flashbacks and might trigger relapses and depressive moods.

The same with TV shows. Nowadays, most of them started to have the theme of the protagonists being depressed and “broken”. In the same way that violent TV shows can rub off to children when they watch it, these forms of media with mental health themes that graphically depict them might be rubbing off to its audience as well.

Social Media Is To Blame Again. Or Is It?

In the case of social media, it served its main purpose to be a place where someone can freely express themselves, and this is the same for those with mental health issues. They can rant online, find help, and meet people who are going through the same thing as them and get support. That is the positive aspect of it. But we can never really control what goes out on the Internet, and some posts that you’ll find online don’t always lean on the side of healing, but on the contrary — glorifying and promoting mental illnesses. Jasmine Hewitt describes the social media platform Tumblr in an article for the Odyssey as being “full of people promoting self-harm and self-destructive behavior.”

Although social media platforms give you the ability to report or take down posts that might contain sensitive media, not all of them are reported or taken down, so people still come across them, and these might have negative effects on people, especially posts that promote self -harm and depression. The idea of what we read or watch “rubbing off” on us may be contributing to the increasing number of people with mental health issues, and since almost every teen and adult is pretty much on social media, there are chances that they will come across these negative posts and it may affect their emotions negatively.

Since information is now accessible anywhere, thanks to the internet and the media, we cannot monitor everyone who sees these posts or reads these published works and know whether or not the effect to these audiences might be good (like making them aware of mental health issues) or bad (having negative and triggering effects to their emotions).

Nevertheless, we should all be responsible enough to put “trigger warnings” on any of these forms of media whenever it contains something sensitive that may be troubling to some audiences. Authors should know that if their books have themes of depression and suicide or have a protagonist graphically describing how he or she is feeling, a trigger warning should be placed on the cover. They should state that the readers should not emulate this kind of mindset and behavior of the characters . They should seek help if they feel distressed or triggered, and should not continue reading if it’s having negative effects to their emotions and mental health.

The use of media as an outlet to express emotions and make people aware of mental health issues is a good thing. What makes it bad is if loses its true purpose, which is to help those who have mental health issues and spread awareness, and instead makes audiences feel depressed and triggered. We should practice the responsible use of not just social media but any form of media for that matter, and we should be sensitive enough to consider that these posts or books may not have a good effect on everyone. TC mark

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