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Getting trigger-
happy with
trigger warnings
Mental health, (dis)ability and
activism
Katie
Trigger warning
Talk will include discussion of disability and mental health
issues including depression, anxiety, and sui...
About me
 My experience with physical and mental disability
 Diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety – 2006
 Dia...
Overview
 Terminology
 What is a disability and a (dis)ability?
 Mental health as a disability
 Why activists need to ...
Terminology
 Generally, the preferred term is “person with a disability”, not
“disabled person” (although some activists ...
What is a disability?
 Physical, intellectual or psychological
 Visible or not visible
 Note a person with disability m...
What is (dis)ability?
 Some people prefer to see their impairment as an extra
ability, not a disability
 Some people wit...
Mental health
 Depression is the leading cause of disability in the
world – World Health Organization
 More awareness of...
Relevance to activism
 Particularly important for intersectional
activists to understand mental health
because:
 often d...
Issues for activists
 Safe spaces
 Trigger warnings
 Being inclusive
 Making adjustments to working arrangements
 Pre...
Safe Spaces
 A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-
expressed, without fear of being made to feel
uncomfortabl...
Criticism of trigger warnings and
safe spaces
 Even left-wing publications like the Guardian have
published articles crit...
Myth busting
It stifles free
discussion and
challenging of ideas
The use of trigger warnings allows individuals to make
in...
How to create safe spaces
 Set the ground rules for language, conduct and conflict
 The moderator should know the proced...
It’s all about consent!
 As an anarchist, I centre my life around not forcing
choices onto to others – this includes not ...
Empowering groups of people
 Ideally, if the session concern a certain group, the
moderator and speakers should be from t...
Having your own space
 Consider the use of womyn-only forums, survivors-only forums,
etc if this seems appropriate in som...
Be aware of yourself
 Men - avoid dominating discussion or talking over women
 Young people and elderly people are often...
What are triggering topics?
 There is no definitive list, but it includes a
discussion of, or showing images of:
 Violen...
Effective trigger warnings
 Trigger warnings must be effective
 This means they:
 mention the likely triggering topic, ...
I don’t have a disability, what can
I do?
 Mental health first aid course
 Be sensitive: disability treatment might not ...
Making adjustments to working
arrangements
 All these suggestions can be adapted to apply
to a working or volunteering ar...
Conclusion
 Be aware of your language
 Create safe spaces
 Educate yourself about what it is like to have
a disability ...
Resources
 Safe Spaces: advocatesforyouth.org
 Avoiding ableist language:
autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-
to...
Feeling depressed or concerned
about someone?
 Lifeline
 24/7 Crisis Line 13 11 14
 Online chat 7pm - 4am (AEST) 7 days...
Questions? Comments?
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Getting Trigger Happy With Trigger Warnings. Mental Health, (dis)ability And Activism By Katie

You can listen to the audio of this talk at the links below:
Full talk: https://soundcloud.com/perth-indymedia/trigger
Full talk with Q and A: https://archive.org/details/TriggerWarnings

This talk was recorded at the Institute for Critical Animal Studies Oceania 2015 Conference in Melbourne. You can find out more information about this conference here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/conference-schedule/


You can find links to listen to other talks from the conference here: http://progressivepodcastaustralia.com/2015/08/14/108/

Below is further information about the talk from the conference booklet, available here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2015-booklet-final-.pdf



Getting trigger happy with trigger warnings: mental health, (dis)ability and

activism:



Trigger warning: Talk will include discussion of disability and mental health

issues including depression, anxiety, and suicide. Will also include discussion of how other oppressed groups may be triggered i.e. through racism, queerphobia, sexism, etc. No detailed or graphic discussion of any of these issues.



Ableism, discrimination against people with disabilities, is unfortunately commonly found in mainstream Australian society and in activist circles. Many Australians associate the word ‘disability’ with intellectual impairments such as Down’s syndrome, or with a physical and visible disability, which might require the use of a wheelchair. However, the leading form of disability in the world is depression. Other forms of mental illness are also very common, such as anxiety and substance abuse. Although anti-discrimination laws protect the rights of people with disabilities, much still needs to be done on public attitudes and awareness, particularly towards those who are often not viewed

as having a ‘disability’.



This paper will consider how animal rights activists and other advocacy groups can be more inclusive of people with disabilities, particularly mental health issues, through the use of trigger warnings, safe spaces policies, preventing activist “burn-out”, and making adjustments to working arrangements. Such policies are also applicable to those who may not have a disability, but may also be triggered by traumatic discussions, such as queer people, survivors of violence, Indigenous people, people of colour, and other groups that experience discrimination or trauma. As the advocates for progressive change in society, it is vital that animal activists and other groups have a thorough knowledge of disability issues, and use this knowledge to make real changes that are more inclusive of people with disabilities.

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Getting Trigger Happy With Trigger Warnings. Mental Health, (dis)ability And Activism By Katie

  1. 1. Getting trigger- happy with trigger warnings Mental health, (dis)ability and activism Katie
  2. 2. Trigger warning Talk will include discussion of disability and mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and suicide. Will also include discussion of how other oppressed groups may be triggered i.e. through racism, queerphobia, sexism, etc. No detailed or graphic discussion of any of these issues.
  3. 3. About me  My experience with physical and mental disability  Diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety – 2006  Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome – 2012  Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2008 and 2013 from two separate instances of trauma  Animal and human rights activist  Experience working with people with mental illness or who have been exposed to trauma, such as refugees  As Youth Advisor to the Board of Amnesty International Australia, initiated creation of their first Safer Spaces policy
  4. 4. Overview  Terminology  What is a disability and a (dis)ability?  Mental health as a disability  Why activists need to be aware of people with disabilities and trauma:  Safe spaces  Trigger warnings  Being inclusive  Making adjustments to working arrangements  Talk will focus particularly on mental health
  5. 5. Terminology  Generally, the preferred term is “person with a disability”, not “disabled person” (although some activists dislike this)  i.e. “Person with Down syndrome”, not “Down syndrome person”.  Some people use the term “able-bodied” to describe their privilege as someone without a disability, however this is a limited view of disability  The phrases “person without a disability” or “non-disabled” cover all types of disability  Many insults in common use have an ableist origin and should be avoided – obvious ones include “retard”, “crazy”, “mental”, “insane” but others less obvious are “lame”, “idiot”, “moron”, “dumb”, “stupid”, “imbecile,  Phrases “blinded by..”, “turning a deaf ear”, “crippled by..”  Some alternative words: ridiculous, obtuse, ignorant, uneducated, boring, inane, pathetic, unbelievable, etc
  6. 6. What is a disability?  Physical, intellectual or psychological  Visible or not visible  Note a person with disability may not be aware of their disability  Some are static, some change day-to-day, some will come and go
  7. 7. What is (dis)ability?  Some people prefer to see their impairment as an extra ability, not a disability  Some people with autism spectrum disorder have extraordinary abilities in maths, art, music, etc  My mental health issues and exposure to trauma give me greater empathy i.e. connecting with other traumatised animals, my desire to advocate for victims  On the other hand, don’t dismiss the real suffering and limitations that a disability can bring, i.e. with chronic fatigue, can be confined to a bed for days
  8. 8. Mental health  Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world – World Health Organization  More awareness of mental health now, but still a lot of stigma  Often not recognised as a disability by society  Statistics vary, but between 25-50% of people will experience a mental illness  Many of you will have a mental illness, or have a loved one with a mental illness  The more you talk about your issues with others, the more common you realise mental health issues are
  9. 9. Relevance to activism  Particularly important for intersectional activists to understand mental health because:  often deal with traumatic issues,  can be exposed to trauma,  work with those exposed to trauma, and  need to set the best example of inclusivity for society
  10. 10. Issues for activists  Safe spaces  Trigger warnings  Being inclusive  Making adjustments to working arrangements  Preventing activist burn-out
  11. 11. Safe Spaces  A place where anyone can relax and be fully self- expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person's self- respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others — Advocates for Youth
  12. 12. Criticism of trigger warnings and safe spaces  Even left-wing publications like the Guardian have published articles critical of trigger warnings eg they are “counterproductive” (Jill Filipovic)  In her article, Trigger warnings are counter- productive, Filipovic claims: 1. It stifles free discussion and challenging of ideas 2. It doesn’t empower survivors of violence 3. Some traumas are worthy of warnings, some aren’t 4. It makes women feel more vulnerable 5. University is a place for learning new ideas, and not an appropriate place for trigger warnings
  13. 13. Myth busting It stifles free discussion and challenging of ideas The use of trigger warnings allows individuals to make informed choices, to preserve their mental health. Very triggering topics can be discussed and challenged, but in a safe way, where people may opt out due to their trauma or mental health capacity. It doesn’t empower survivors of violence, who should ask for warnings directly It is incredibly insensitive to expect a survivor of violence to directly demand trigger warnings. Filipovic proposes that a woman who has experienced sexual violence should approach her lecturer and request warnings. I can not imagine ever approaching any of my lecturers to discuss my own experience of sexual violence. Some traumas are worthy of warnings All oppression is interlinked. An intersectional approach does not create a hierarchy of oppression. It make women feel more vulnerable Trigger warnings are designed to protect vulnerable people. Women, and others, are vulnerable in our sexist, racist, homophobic society. It is better to provide protection than to trigger trauma. University is a place for learning new ideas, warnings are inappropriate Our society, including universities, should strive to be inclusive of people with mental health issues and trauma. Triggering ideas can be discussed in a way that is safe, and that people consent to.
  14. 14. How to create safe spaces  Set the ground rules for language, conduct and conflict  The moderator should know the procedure for a breach  Have at least one moderator, as well as grievance officers  Use effective trigger warnings– will discuss in more detail later  Safe spaces does not mean you have to stifle free speech, or discussion of certain issues, it just means you need to make spaces safe, and give people informed knowledge before they consent to participating  Avoid certain language, unless a trigger warning is in place  i.e. say “sexual violence/assault” not “rape”  Avoid extremely derogatory terms, even when quoting another person. Instead say “the ‘n’ word” or “derogatory term for gay person”, etc
  15. 15. It’s all about consent!  As an anarchist, I centre my life around not forcing choices onto to others – this includes not asking people to speak and letting them self-identify  Some people are extremely uncomfortable talking in public, but they may still want to contribute, so consider having contributions to a discussion written down on paper during a forum, as well as taking feedback in person  Big groups can also be broken down into smaller group discussions, which can make it easier for some people to contribute  Use the gender pronouns that that person chooses. If you don’t know, refer to them by their name or use gender neutral pronouns such as “they”
  16. 16. Empowering groups of people  Ideally, if the session concern a certain group, the moderator and speakers should be from that group, or at least have experience working with that group  If the topic concerns a particular group of people i.e. people of colour, consider first asking for any contributions from people of that group, to allow them to have ownership of their space  If certain people or groups are dominating discussion, ask for others to contribute
  17. 17. Having your own space  Consider the use of womyn-only forums, survivors-only forums, etc if this seems appropriate in some cases  Sometimes people need to speak freely without fear of an oppressor, or the risk of offending others outside the group  Men, heterosexuals, white people and others that might be excluded from such discussions, should recognise that some people need a place to feel safe and talk freely  Womyn who are survivors of sexual violence, for example, may have a fear of all men – even men who see themselves as feminist allies  So don’t be offended if you are excluded - sometimes it is #allmen!
  18. 18. Be aware of yourself  Men - avoid dominating discussion or talking over women  Young people and elderly people are often ignored, so pay close attention to how you interact with them  Western people need to be extremely sensitive to people of other cultural backgrounds – especially in regards to that culture’s use of animals  Avoid getting caught up in “white guilt” or going out of your way to emphasise your own privilege – acknowledge it, but ultimately leave it to that group to claim the space and discussion  As Dr Cornell West said, “It’s not always about you white people!”. The same applies to cis-gender people, men, heterosexuals, etc
  19. 19. What are triggering topics?  There is no definitive list, but it includes a discussion of, or showing images of:  Violence – domestic, physical, sexual, emotional  Hate and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, ethnic group, sexuality, disability, or any other identity  Abortion – especially anti-choice views  Death, self-harm, suicide, miscarriages  Any other issue related to trauma – car collision, war, natural disasters, burglary, workplace bullying
  20. 20. Effective trigger warnings  Trigger warnings must be effective  This means they:  mention the likely triggering topic, as well as whether there will be a graphic discussion or images;  precede the discussion; and  give people the chance to avoid the session, or at least time to leave the room - check they have left before starting  If the conversation shifts to new triggering topics, the moderator, or any person, can raise a new warning  If you think you may be triggered, sitting near the back can make you feel more comfortable leaving  Bringing a book, or leaving with a friend can make it easier  After the session, be careful about talking about triggering topics in front of others who might have been upset about it
  21. 21. I don’t have a disability, what can I do?  Mental health first aid course  Be sensitive: disability treatment might not fit with progressive views:  Medication tested on animals  Cultural appropriation with mindfulness meditation  Use of guide dogs  Read the facts – Beyond Blue website  Encourage people to seek help – online, via a book, crisis line or GP  Most people who get help do so because someone urged them to  If your loved one is in a life-threatening situation, consider contacting:  Mental health emergency response team in your state/territory  A crisis helpline such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline  The police (especially where they may be a risk to others)
  22. 22. Making adjustments to working arrangements  All these suggestions can be adapted to apply to a working or volunteering arrangement  People with disabilities have a right to request reasonable adjustments and to negotiate them with their employer  For more information, see the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission
  23. 23. Conclusion  Be aware of your language  Create safe spaces  Educate yourself about what it is like to have a disability or experience trauma  Let the oppressed group speak for themselves, and have their own space
  24. 24. Resources  Safe Spaces: advocatesforyouth.org  Avoiding ableist language: autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms- to-avoid.html  Mental health: beyondblue.org.au  Concerned about discrimination? humanrights.gov.au
  25. 25. Feeling depressed or concerned about someone?  Lifeline  24/7 Crisis Line 13 11 14  Online chat 7pm - 4am (AEST) 7 days  Beyond blue  24/7 Phone 1300 22 4636  Web chat 3pm -12am (AEST) 7 days
  26. 26. Questions? Comments?

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