“Trigger Subjects”

Last year I attended a Conference which, as part of the night time entertainment had a comic perform to all those attending.  The act began with jokes about purpetrating sexual assault. This act then progressed to racist jokes, and jokes about people with mental health problems which several people found offensive and upsetting. Whilst I condemn racism, and am an anti-racist ally/activist, I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to critique this, as I am not a Black student* and do not want to speak for an oppressed group who are more than capable of speaking for themselves, but I would very much like to hear a person directly affected do so if they wish. I instead want to draw attention to something different.

 I am speaking to you as a individual who has survived sexual assault. Doing so left me with a mental health condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD for short) which I will potentially be dealing with for the rest of my life. The entertainment at the conference was not only inaccessible to me, but it actually served to temporarily worsen my impairment, as a result of the energy draining panic attacks and the episode related insomnia that it caused.

The provision of advance warnings on what are known as “trigger subjects” (subjects which trigger episodes in people with PTSD vary from person to person, but example subjects can include sexual assault, domestic abuse and violent assault) are an access issue for many people with PTSD.  This is not about censoring free speech or being politically correct – PTSD is a mental health condition. Mind estimate that between 1.5-3.5% of the population experience PTSD at some point during their lives. And herein lies my point – I am not simply condemning the comedian involved in this incident. I am asking you to carry this awareness of PTSD back to  your communities – I am asking you to use trigger warnings at your events to help other students access their social life more safely. PTSD triggers have very little place in our safe spaces. Please work to maintain safe space for all in your groups.


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