In our everyday lives, the topic of triggers has become more common, popping up in conversations and interactions, whether online or face-to-face. While it might seem that ‘trigger’ has become a buzzword for outrage or an ‘on-trend’ phrase, triggers can be incredibly impactful moments for people who are going through mental health crisis or those who are neurodivergent.

Triggers manifest in various forms, often emerging unexpectedly in our daily experiences. For some, triggers may be linked to specific foods, while for others, they may be intertwined with interpersonal dynamics such as friendships and relationships. Social triggers, such as crowded environments or certain language cues, can also evoke intense reactions. It’s important to recognise that triggers are deeply personal, extending beyond mere offence provoked by social media, television or online discourse.

What are triggers?

Triggers often fall into two categories: fast triggers and slow triggers.

Fast triggers are those sudden moments that instantly push you to your emotional limit. This might include experiences like a breakup, facing bullying, or feeling ostracised by loved ones. These situations can swiftly escalate emotions, potentially leading to outbursts. In these cases, it’s usually clear to others why you reacted the way you did—they can empathise with the intensity of the moment.

Slow triggers, on the other hand, are more like a gradual build-up of pressure. Imagine a morning where you oversleep, run out of breakfast options, get stuck in traffic, and then face unexpected demands as soon as you arrive at work or school already late. Each incident on its own might be manageable, but when they pile up, they create overwhelming pressure.

In situations where slow triggers accumulate throughout the day, only the individual may fully grasp the weight of each event. This can make it harder for others to empathise with any emotional reactions and might lead to accusations of overreacting.

Understanding and validating those who have been through different kinds of triggers is important at PAPYRUS. Working with someone to understand and recognise where their pressures are coming from and what support they feel would help bolster them in these moments can help provide them with the most effective coping strategies to manage these situations. It can also help with open and honest communication when sharing with others to help them understand that this might not be a trivial issue as they had first assumed and it is something that is deeply affecting them.

Neurodiversity triggers

When it comes to neurodiversity, triggers often manifest in unexpected ways. What may seem insignificant to neurotypicals can be utterly intolerable for neurodiverse individuals. While there are some triggers that are more commonly experienced within the neurodiverse community, it’s essential to recognise that triggers are highly individualised.

For instance, certain stimuli such as sights, smells, sounds, and tastes can provoke intense reactions in neurodiverse individuals. Many autistic people experience hypersensitivity, where even seemingly innocent words can trigger an immediate response.

Similarly to neurotypical people, neurodiverse individuals can also be affected by slow triggers. However, processing delays may exacerbate the impact, causing individuals to become overwhelmed much later than when the triggering event initially occurred.

Supporting someone who is affected by triggers

Triggers can significantly exacerbate thoughts of suicide for someone already grappling with them. Even if these triggers may not seem significant to others, it’s crucial not to downplay their impact. Dismissing triggers can take the form of comments like “it’s no big deal” or “you’ll get over it,” which can invalidate a person’s feelings and worsen their mental state.

When feelings are dismissed, it can lead people to question themselves and their experiences, creating self-doubt and negative self-perception. This cycle of invalidation can deepen their struggles with suicidal ideation.

Our advisers on HOPELINE247 prioritise honest communication and validation of all young people’s feelings. By working together, we can identify strategies to manage or avoid trigger events and support individuals in coping with them when they are unavoidable.

HOPELINE247 is a confidential support and advice service for children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide. If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned for a young person who might be you can contact HOPELINE247 for confidential support and practical advice.
Call: 0800 068 4141
Text: 88247
Call: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 88247
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