Stock market slang stigmatises mental health
“Stock Market Psychosis”. “Wall Street Goes Crazy”. “Global Depression Market”. How many times have we read expressions in the press that compare economy with mental health disorders? Organisations such as Obertament believe that economic slang is stigmatising and needs to be redressed.
“Even a professor of economics, in a signed article, said ‘schizoid economics’, because, according to him, ‘the economy entered into a dissociation between two simultaneous and contradictory tendencies.’” Dani denounces it openly in Obertament’s blog, where the organisation educates about inclusive language with hundreds of stories. The complaint is repeated over and over again.
It was precisely the use of the words “psychosis” and “schizophrenia” as pejorative metaphors that set off all alarm bells. Since then, Obertament has published up to five reports with Grup Barnils, explaining its campaigns and training sessions throughout the country to raise awareness of the stigma attached to mental health in the media and, specifically, in international, opinion, political and economic news. “The schizoid personality has nothing to do with economics – do not compare apples with oranges,” says Dani.
The first offence, of course, is to use metaphors that reinforce stigma without taking into account what it means to have a mental health disorder. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people in the world, have or will have a disorder in their life, and it can appear at any time, from childhood to old age. According to the latest Obertament report, for example, the WHO estimates that nearly 300 million people in the world have had depression, 4.4% of the global population.
And yet, despite all this, these people often feel discriminated against within their family and colleagues. In fact, according to a study published by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Spora Sinergies, 80.1% of people with mental health problems in Catalonia have suffered discrimination and stigma, 54.9% of them very frequently.
Disorders have nothing to do with violence
Therefore, when media or economic and political professionals link mental health with conflicts, crises or difficult contexts, they are reinforcing discrimination even more. The second offence, in fact, is to link mental health disorders with violence. In this sense, the Consell de l’Audiovisual de Catalunya (CAC) warns in a guide that “the risk of aggression is exaggerated, fear and mistrust are encouraged and the gap of ignorance about mental health issues is widened.”
Thus, we are also reproducing, unwillingly, a discourse that describes the economy as an aggressive environment, where immoral competition is rife and suspicions pull the strings of the market. Is this really the image we have of how the economy works? The CAC also recalls that using terms such as “schizophrenic”, “bipolar”, “psychosis”, “depressive” to describe chaotic, irrational, extravagant situations or to disqualify the opponent; using negative adjectives; or opting for alarming and morbid statements, “perpetuates false beliefs and stereotypes.”
Stereotypes that are offensive
And, of course, the third offence is stereotyping, as Obertament denounces. We often use expressions that, because they are so normalised, we do not perceive as derogatory. For example, current irreversible economic issues are often linked to mental health as if they were an incurable illness preventing people from “carry on a normal life.”
In this way, a mental disorder is often confused with a mental disability or dementia. Obertament also warns that, by thinking that we are emphasising, we tend to fall into “a paternalistic and compassionate tone.” This idea, moreover, is reinforced by illustrations that arouse rejection, sadness or a dark and desperate inner abyss. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the end, as Obertament denounces, we end up converting mental health into “a catch-all.”
That is why, on the contrary, various organisations recommend using expressions such as “A person who has or has had…”, using adjectives and resources that do not refer to mental health, contextualising mental health disorders, listening to and respecting people with this diagnosis, highlighting stories of overcoming mental health problems and avoiding sensationalism.
All these advices, in the end, are meant to avoid focusing on individuals, but rather on society causing such common disorders as anxiety or depression. If we want to collectively change the economy and build a more honest and ethical banking system, instead of reproducing prejudices, perhaps we should turn everything upside down. Let’s start with language.
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