A guide to content and trigger warnings

A young person sits on their sofa looking at their phone

TW // Talk and mention of trigger warnings

Understanding trigger warnings

Using trigger/content warnings for the first time can be a bit scary – you can’t help but worry about getting things wrong.

But don’t let that stop you from taking the right steps. At the least, it will take you 2-3 seconds to add. At the most, it will help prevent someone from having a panic attack or worse.

So, never fear! This guide is here to help you understand the why, when, and how of trigger/content warnings.

What are trigger and content warnings?

They are a notice of upcoming sensitive content or imagery that may have a negative impact on someone.

Why is it important to use these warnings?

By putting choice back into the hands of those who have had traumatic experiences, they help create a safe space. This way, those with trauma can decide when and how to engage with the content.

When do I use these warnings?

Content warnings: These should be used to describe something that might upset readers and make them feel bad e.g., blood and nudity.

Trigger warnings: These should be used to prevent exposing someone with past trauma, to something that might insight a physical and/pr mental reaction e.g., sexual violence.

How do I use these warnings?

Posting on social media

  1. Start with the abbreviation:

CW or TW

  1. Add the two slashes:

CW // or TW //

  1. Add the keywords clearly, without censoring (make these clear enough so people know what to expect, but without being too descriptive that it itself can trigger a reaction): 

CW // nudity  or TW // sexual violence

  1. If you are writing a caption, go to the next line and add a full stop. Keep doing this until the description is hidden, so those who are okay with continuing can click on “read more.”

 TW // sexual violence

In conversation

When you are in a conversation and know you will be saying something sensitive….

  1. Say that you are giving a trigger warning.
  2. Clearly mention the themes you will be touching on.
  3. Leave enough time for someone to opt-out.

Side note:

It’s scary. But know that you aren’t expected to be aware of everything that people can be triggered by, just be open and respectful when someone reaches out to you about something you posted that they felt triggered by.

It also helps to research the common lists of triggers/content warnings. Here are a few:

  • Death
  • Sexual violence/ rape
  • Food and drink/ eating disorders
  • Paedophilia
  • Violence/murder
  • Sex/masturbation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Homophobia, transphobia, sexism (any kind of discrimination)
  • Talk of dysphoria, body image and appearance

For more information about trigger warnings, take a look at these articles:

https://www.lookslikefilm.com/2019/01/27/how-to-write-a-trigger-warning/

https://www.oxfordsu.org/resourcehub/guidetotriggerwarnings/

https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/inclusive-classrooms/an-introduction-to-content-warnings-and-trigger-warnings/

If you have been triggered and need support

You can contact our team who are there to support you with anything and everything. Support is completely free and confidential.

You can also speak to other young people who are going through the same thing you are by joining our community.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 09-Oct-2020

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