Tyne and Wear Metro have launched a new video to encourage safety when using their service. Sounds fine in theory until you hear their naive use of highly stigmatising language.
They used the word ‘insane’ in the context of a persons stupidity which is simply offensive.
This is the email I sent after they refused to discuss this further publicly on twitter. I will post their response if and when I receive it.
Thank you for providing your contact details to afford me the opportunity to express my disgust at the abhorrent use of stigmatising language in your current safety campaign in more than 140 characters.
Whilst I appreciate that safety within the metro system is of paramount important I was dismayed to see that your organisation had chosen to make comparisons between insanity/mental illness and stupidity. I wonder if DB would have authorised this campaign if it had replaced the word insane with learning disabilities or a physical illness like cancer sufferer? Unlikely as they would have caused offence and I hope you can see that whether you intend to cause offence or not is immaterial if you do actually offend a whole section of society.
Mental health stigma is something which organisations such as ‘Time to Change’ fight every day as it is something which sufferers of mental ill health face regularly. You may have seen in the press recently that supermarkets Asda and Tesco and also Thorpe Park have also made error of judgments with regard to their use of language in relation to mental health. Some of those organisations took longer than others to realise the offence they caused but they all eventually apologised for their actions and withdrew their products. I hope when you consider your animation more fully you will see how deeply offensive the use of the word insane actually is.
I look forward to seeing your public apology and an announcement about the withdrawal of this animated video.
Stigma is something which those who live with mental illness face on a daily basis. As a society we have an obligation to reject this stigmatisation of what is ultimately no different to a physical illness. We must challenge when people or organisations use language which reinforces the stereotypes of days gone by.