Inclusive Language: Triggers and Content Warnings

You may have previously heard a friend or someone you know say the following: “I’m triggered by this” or have seen “CW” or “Content Warning” before a social media post. But what does that mean?

The term ‘triggered’ can be used to describe someone who is “provoked by a stimulus that awakens or worsens the symptoms of a traumatic event or mental health condition”. When someone experiences trauma, the surrounding sensory stimuli is stored in our brain within our memory. When these stimuli are experienced in the future, the brain may reactivate these feelings. For example, if someone got into a bad car accident while listening to a certain song, that song could become a future trigger for that individual who must relive that trauma. It is important to note that everyone experiences trauma differently and might be affected in different ways.

While triggers are unique to each person, some common examples include the holiday or anniversary of the trauma or loss; certain sounds, sights, smells, or tastes related to the trauma; loud voices or yelling; loud noises; arguments; being ridiculed or judged; breakup of a relationship; violence in the news; sexual harassment or unwanted touching; physical illness or injury; among others.

Content warnings or trigger warnings are designed “to warn trauma survivors about potentially disturbing content”; and while were initially used when working with survivors, are now often used in many contexts including social media. This allows for readers to know what to expect, and if necessary to avoid the post.

Part of being inclusive and welcoming is understanding that not everyone has the same life experiences as you. If you are in a group, creating a school project, or posting to your story; including content warnings is an easy way to show your peers, friends, and others that you care about them. By doing this simple act, you can help someone from unnecessarily having to relive trauma.

Reference: What Are Triggers, and How Do They Form?

Additional resource: A (Small) List of Trigger Warnings You Can Use

Reflective Questions

  • Where have you seen content warnings and how did it make you feel?
  • What can you do if you see a post that triggers you?
  • How will you use trigger and content warning going forward?

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March 19th–March 25th

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March 19 — Vernal Equinox: Marks the first day of the season of spring. The sun shines nearly equally on both hemispheres when it’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere and simultaneously fall in the Southern Hemisphere.

March 19 — St. Joseph Day (Western Christian): the principal feast of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

March 20 — Ostara: a celebration of the spring equinox commemorated by Pagans and Wiccans. It is observed as a time to mark the coming of spring and the fertility of the land

March 20 — Nowrúz (Also known as Nawrúz) (Zoroastrian (Bahá’í)): Celebrates the first day of Spring and the Iranian New Year, which occurs on the vernal equinox, on or near March 21. Also celebrated as New Year’s Day in Baha’i tradition. (This date may vary based on region or sect.)

March 20–21 — Persian New Year (Zoroastrianism and Parsiism): a day of joy, celebration, and renewal. It is held annually on the spring equinox.

March 21 — International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: observed annually in the wake of the 1960 killing of 69 people at a demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in South Africa. The United Nations proclaimed the day in 1966 and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

March 23–24— Purim (Jewish):  The “Feast of Lots” marks the saving of the Jewish people of ancient Persia from extermination.

March 24 — Palm/Orthodox Sunday (Western Christian): celebrated on the first Sunday of Great Lent. It is the celebration of the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Therefore, the service commemorates the restoration of icons for use in services as well as a Christian’s private devotional life.

March 24 — Lord’s Evening Meal (Christian): celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses in commemoration of the event believed to have occurred on the first night of Passover in approximately 33 CE that other Christians call the Last Supper.

March 25 — Holi (Hindu): A spring festival in India and Nepal dedicated to the god of pleasure, also known as the festival of colors or the festival of sharing love.

March 25 — Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Christian): a celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus.

March 25 — Hola Mohalla (Sikh): a Sikh festival that takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chet, a day after the Hindu spring festival Holi.

March 25 — International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: a United Nations international observation that offers the opportunity to honor and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal system of slavery as well as aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice.