Today I’m happy to have my sorority sister, Alyssa Calicchia, write a post for my blog! Alyssa is a rising junior double-majoring in Psychology and Political Science. She is a Resident Assistant for freshmen and works at the Center for Women and Community at UMass Amherst. She also has an amazing emotional support cat named Montey! From the moment she joined my chapter of Alpha Chi Omega last fall, I saw a girl with so much intelligence and potential. I’m honored to be friends with such a kind-hearted and supportive person. Show Alyssa some love and follow her on Instagram and Twitter!
I would like to thank Lauren for letting me guest post on her wonderful and highly important blog spreading awareness about mental health & encouraging guidance. So much love for you, sister. (Side note from me: awwww, love you so much, Alyssa!)
Safe spaces and trigger warnings are a current debate tool in our controversially political climate. Just the appearance of the words alone arouses strong emotion. Maybe that’s the reason you clicked on this article! These phrases are commonly used as insults or harassment by mostly conservative citizens against more liberal citizens. “Aw! Do you need a safe space?”, “Oh, did I trigger you?” are some of the sarcastic mockings that appear on social media during political disagreements. I personally identify as someone who is more left-leaning but I find these statements harmful for a reason completely separate from my position on the political spectrum.
These phrases hold strong meaning in the mental health community. Recently popularized on college campuses, safe spaces and trigger warnings are provided more so as “damage control” rather than a comfort. The “damage” that these institutions attempt to avoid is suicide, self-harm or other potentially fatal actions NOT a strongly worded letter from an upset parent. People who suffer from mental health issues, trauma, chronic stress and other things are vulnerable to relapse of symptoms when a triggering stimulus is presented without warning in an uncomfortable environment. One of the most prominent disorders that provoked this effort to create a healthier environment was PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder was recognized in the past few decades after episodes suicide among veterans increased dramatically after wartime. This disorder is defined as, “a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened”. Those who suffer from this disorder experience extreme stress and wear on the body, recurring nightmares, flashbacks, moments of dissociation with one’s body, lack of sleep, panic attacks and many other symptoms that are often debilitating. As someone who suffers from PTSD, I have recognized that I will always live with this disorder and have adopted coping mechanisms to manage the pain and stabilize myself. The assistance I have received has allowed me to continue a normal life and without it, I do not believe I would be alive right now.
Trigger warnings are not present for “weak liberals who get their feelings hurt” or “those who can’t handle the toughness of life” or “participation trophy millennials”. These references are frankly insulting to those who live everyday dependent on self-preservation and avoiding re-traumatization. A ‘safe space’ simply refers to a designated area where one is allowed to feel vulnerable and supported in order to regain strength and receive guidance. This is often in a clinical setting such as therapy, psychiatrists offices, human resources departments, and other human services for mental health issues or adjustment counseling.
Maybe you are still reading and think “wow just another sensitive snowflake” but these measures are in order to keep people alive, to provide assistance for those suffering, to change the stigma around trauma and to offer acceptance for those with mental disabilities.
I wouldn’t wish a second of what I have endured on my worst enemy. Without the presence of these resources and many others, death counts by suicide would be must higher. Programs like “13 Reasons Why” or “To the Bone” are enough to provoke viewers to adopt maladaptive behaviors or attempt suicide. Just imagine what a rape joke at a party would do to your friend who was sexually abused. Or a pop of a firework to your neighbor who fought in Vietnam. Even a familiar smell is enough to trigger an agonizing flashback.
This is not that hard to abide by for those who not affected by disorders like PTSD. It really is just compassion. Just plain compassion. Really not much to ask for since it does not inconvenience others in any way. Sure living life “not P-C” might be attractive but without empathy, you lack humanity. If you can respect a flag so much, doesn’t your fellow human being deserve at least the same? Treat others the way they want to be treated. Please. Thank you. Ugh.
Alyssa & Lauren