If you’ve been keeping up with the bookish community on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the debate that’s been going on in regards to books having trigger warnings (also referred to as content warnings). I’ve only recently heard of this seemingly on-going debate, and I’m quite shocked at the uproar it seems to be causing.
(A trigger warning can resemble something like this:
Warning: this book contains *insert sensitive subject* .)
Trigger warnings are important. They warn people who have gone through traumatising situations of scenes that may cause them distress. But it’s not just for trauma victims that these warnings are necessary – it’s for people with anxiety, and other types of mental health issues. These warnings may be the difference between someone having a panic attack because they were unaware of a books contents, or avoiding something they were warned could upset them.
Many authors (and even some readers) are completely against having trigger warnings in books, convinced the warnings are the same as spoilers. But that’s not what a trigger warning is. If you want the book to be a complete surprise, that’s okay (and I assume you probably don’t read a books synopsis because of that same mindset).
But have some compassion for others if you think this way – there are so many readers in the world struggling everyday with things they have gone through (or are still going through). And if a trigger warning could help someone avoid a book that may potentially harm their mental state, are there really any downsides?
If you don’t have any need for trigger warnings, or you find that they don’t benefit you, that’s great. I’m glad that you haven’t faced something in your life that has left you vulnerable to certain things (or even if you have, but reminders of those experiences don’t send you in a downward spiral). But lots of others do.
I honestly don’t see a problem with trigger warnings being in a book. I can see why many don’t want them on the contents page, but the answer is simple: publish them on a separate page. People who need trigger warnings have access to them, and other people have the option whether to look at them or not.
It’s really not a crazy notion, especially when you put it into perspective: movies and TV shows have these warnings – they also have ratings so appropriate audiences are viewing them.
Why can’t books be the same?