We Can't Keep Overlooking the Problem With Tomi Lahren's New Merchandise

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s Associate Mental Health Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway. 

In the past few years, Tomi Lahren has risen to prominence as a conservative political pundit known for speaking her mind. She recently attracted attention for being hired as a contributor for Fox News, slated to appear on the network’s primetime show “Hannity.”

But what didn’t receive as much coverage last month was when Tomi released merchandise on her website bearing the controversial words that have quickly become her slogan — “Stay triggered snowflakes.”

But what does being “triggered” actually mean?

According to PsychCentral, “A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.”

With this definition in mind, it’s kind of hard to believe this psychological term has been transformed into a political one. Thanks to conservative commentators like Tomi, variations of the word “trigger” have entered the political consciousness — and unfortunately, not in a way that supports people who have experienced trauma or mental illness.

Aside from the derogatory slur “snowflake” has become, Tomi’s phrase, “stay triggered,” implies that a person who has experienced a psychological trigger chooses to “stay” that way. And if you’ve ever lived with a mental illness or have experienced the effects of trauma, you know it’s not a choice.

In her quest to vanquish “snowflakism,” Tomi has appropriated the word “triggered” for political means, and has inadvertently taken away vocabulary used to communicate mental health difficulties from a community that has long been silenced. The reality is people who experience mental health difficulties come from all over the political spectrum — and all need a way to communicate with others about their experiences.

The politicization of the word “triggered” has made this term somewhat “off limits” for many people struggling with traumatic emotional responses for fear of being labelled “attention seekers.” People who experience mental illness already face incredible stigma in their day-to-day lives, they do not need yet another “reason” to not be taken seriously.

But if I’m being completely honest, this conversation isn’t really about Tomi at all. It’s about how the term “triggered” has become a buzzword synonymous with “weak.” And while the phrasing may have changed, this message isn’t a new one for people in the mental health community, who are used to being told their struggles make them “weak.”

It’s our responsibility to change this narrative.

It’s this kind of stigma that discourages people from talking about how they are really doing. It’s this kind of stigma that makes people believe struggling in silence is better than being called weak, childish or damaged — a “snowflake.” It’s this kind of stigma that could lead people to suicide instead of reaching out for help.

This isn’t about politics — this is about people.

It’s not up to Tomi or anyone else to “diagnose” people as “snowflakes.” Not only is it not helpful, it can be extremely damaging and invalidating for people who have experienced trauma and mental illness.

We need to stop shaming people for their reactions to trauma, and start supporting them instead.

Photo via Tomi Lahren Facebook page.

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