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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Triggering a dose of the clap.

Today something called the National Union of Students Women's Conference happened in London. A normal type of event, nothing to write home about you would think. But something happened that I'm not sure a word has been invented yet to describe how unbelievable it was.

Well actually a lot of things happened but at the minute it is too difficult to decipher between what is real and what is being made up, but the thing that started it all was a request from someone attending the event that there be no clapping as the noise from people applauding caused some people to have an anxiety attack.

And it was agreed that no one would clap.

This raises so many questions that we would probably need to ask God for extra question marks but let's firstly ask ourselves a simple one... Can someone have an anxiety attack from other people clapping?

The simple and honest answer is... Yes.

But let's ask a second question... Should a crowd of people attending a conference not clap because one person (or indeed several people) might have an anxiety attack from it... ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOT.

Now at this moment there might be someone reading this who has gone into such fits of rage that even the Hulk might think about heading off for a coffee until they calm down, claiming something like "what do you know about anxiety attacks, you have no feelings for the poor person who would be suffering".

Well here's the thing: this Friday I will hopefully be discharged from a psychiatric hospital after a 7 week stay. Why have I been in here? Yep, you guessed it.... I suffer from an anxiety disorder. (Also depression but that can take a back seat here).

So I am well qualified to talk about triggers, stress, anxiety attacks and whatever other keywords the nice little student snowflakes have learned. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that none of the people at the conference have actually studied psychiatry or psychology beyond a year of college if that and their only knowledge of anxiety attacks comes from some bullshit they've heard from God knows where.

Meanwhile I've spent over a decade in therapy, a stay in hospital and more hours than I could count reading and studying everything I can to try to find out more about my illness and hopefully beat it or at least enable me to have a quality of life worth living.

So here's what I would say if I had been the conference organiser today and someone had have came to me and asked that clapping be banned as it triggered their anxiety... "No."

I wouldn't be so blunt with them and if I honestly believed they had a real diagnosed (by an actual medical professional, not your auntie who's a Wiccan counsellor) disorder then I would sit and talk with them about it and explain that by granting their wishes I would actually be harming them. They would continue to see themselves as a victim where others must do their bidding because they are a victim and in the long run that will not happen so they will more than likely end up suffering from depression. (Again, actual depression, not the self-diagnosed I'm feeling a bit down stuff that so many come up with today. Actual depression has some actual symptoms which if they are not there then you aren't depressed in the medical sense.)

I would tell them what they need to do is either remove themselves from the place causing them anxiety until they feel they can handle it but what would probably be best for them would be to see if they could face their fear today and if they needed help doing that I'd be happy to try.

Here's the difference - I would be showing that person empathy. Those who would order everyone to stop clapping and say "ooh poor you" would be showing the person sympathy. One is helpful, the other is a horrid, sanctimonious way of harming the person suffering.

Anyone who is suffering from mental illness does not need your sympathy. You can fuck right off with it, we need empathy. If you don't want to be empathetic then just go away.

So if there actually was a person today at that conference (I'm still having trouble believing it all happened) who was suffering from anxiety due to clapping then please do not think that by the organiser banning applause that this has helped you. It has not, it has harmed you and you really need professional help to see why.

Now just in case there are the usual claims of "Oh you don't know what you're talking about, you don't have what they have" here's a very small example of what I have to go through. (A big example would be of how I think my son is dying every 5 mins but that's for another time).

I am actually "triggered" (that's a ridiculous word that's been rendered totally useless by idiot social justice warriors but I'll use it here as it's what they said today) by singing. Yes, you read that right - singing. Because of a long history of abuse, which we don't need to get into, people sitting around and having a "singsong" makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.

Now this being Ireland in the hospital here there's a common area and a few nights some people will start singing. I get very uncomfortable and agitated and the people who sing mostly know how this makes me feel. But do you know what happens? I simply get up and walk away and busy myself doing something else.

That's right, in a psychiatric hospital when a person is actually "triggered" there is no thought of banning whatever is the cause. Because it wouldn't help me. And it would obviously also be hugely selfish of me to expect others to do what I wanted.

At some stage I might be able to sit with others singing and not feel uncomfortable (that's the plan) but not at the minute. So I simply remove it from the equation, it's very simple.

Now if you actually have a mental health issue please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you want to talk. If you think that people should stop clapping because someone is triggered please just fuck off.


  1. Gareth. I have depression and mild anxiety though nothing like what you suffer from and I also found this stuff patronising. I found this through the comments on the Oxford student's article and noticed others there saying the exact same as you.

    Here's one:

    “Maybe it was worth having to sacrifice comfort to not become so painfully egocentric as to fail to experience shame when the best you can do to solve a problem by dancing a wiggle and wiggling your hands like you’re dancing to music only you can hear. Perhaps this is the price of enabling a sense of unconditional acceptance. People who never grow up, who call those with mental disabilities immature, while failing to see that because those with mental disabilities had to grow up sooner they are much more mature than they are. Perhaps I should view the suffering I went through as a gift. It’s certainly better than being an adult who’s answers to difficult problems are circle time, dancey-clap, then juice and crackers.”

    Unfortunately I haven't seen this argument in the general media coverage. You should drop The Guardian a line. I would bet they might be interested as I would bet your story would get clicked on!

    1. Thank you Paul. I wouldn't even know where to start with getting in contact with The Guardian, but I appreciate the thought.


    They do have a thing about previously published stuff but I have seen them basically reblog more than once so I'd say give it a try, what have you got to lose!?

    Send them a pitch, not too long, and cite your credentials for writing.

    I have written for them in the past but then got badmouthed by someone so nothing for a few years.

    If you want advice / help glad to help

    I have seen your point repeated now in several places, eg here