MOMENT: Metaphors of severe mental disorder. Discourse analysis of affected people and mental health professionals

The MOMENT project aims to contribute to a better understanding of severe mental disorders by analyzing the discourse of the two main groups involved, affected people and mental health professionals, in the light of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory. The objective is twofold: on the one hand, to detect and systematize dominant conceptualizations and ideas about the disorder; and, on the other hand, to identify and promote the change of potential discourses which deny the agentive capacity of affected people. Analyzing thinking patterns through the detection of conceptual metaphors is a method which has been applied successfully in several fields, including the conceptualization of some diseases. However, this method has not been yet applied in an extensive way to the discourse field of severe mental disorders. This is the main goal of our project, which in turn is articulated in five more specific goals:

  1. To analyze first-person testimonies of people diagnosed with a severe mental disorder and testimonies of mental health professionals, published on the Internet (blogs, forums, etc.), in order to detect: 1) What kind of metaphors are used by these two groups when they are spontaneously talking about the mental disorder and related experiences; and 2) What kind of discourses are built upon the use of these metaphors: a biomedical discourse, which tends to unempower affected people, or other alternative humanistic discourses, which on the contrary tend to highlight the implication and agentivity of affected people.
  2. To identify similarities and differences in the use of metaphors at two levels: 1) intergroup (affected people vs. professionals); and 2) intragroup (type of severe mental disorder and professional profile).
  3. To improve the method of detection and annotation of metaphors in corpus, with the aim of contributing to solve methodological problems of metaphor identification and formulation which are common to any field of application of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory.
  4. To construct a hand annotated corpus of testimonies of affected people and professionals which, in turn, can serve as a testing ground on automatic metaphor detection. Thus, the project also aims to promote a cutting-edge area of research in the field of Computational Linguistics.
  5. To contribute to the debate on how we should talk about mental disorders. In this sense, based on the results obtained, an advice guide of metaphor use is going to be created, along with transfer actions (academic training and social dissemination), in order that health professionals, as well as the society as a whole, can use certain mental disorder metaphors with greater awareness and in a more respectful way.

The project relies on a multidisciplinary team with extensive experience in Applied Linguistics as well as in several fields of mental health: Psychology, Social Care Work and Medical Anthropology. Therefore, the MOMENT project represents an interdisciplinary collaborative space which aims to mobilize the complementary knowledge of several scientific fields to face one of the great challenges of our society: to improve the understanding of severe mental disorders.


Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad. Plan Estatal de I+D+i Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad – FFI2017-86969-R