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Is the language of the pandemic making us ill?

In the first 2 minutes of his most recent keynote address, the British Prime Minister used the words struggle, crisis, havoc, mourn, grieve, sickness and sacrifice. Today’s UK press headlines included under fire, chaotic, fear and morons and during the first US presidential debate candidates told us “a lot more are going to die”.

These are very serious times - we know this already but exposing us time and again to such negative language might just be making us unwell.

How we use language will not boost our immunity or replace a vaccine but it has a massive role to play in our feelings and our mental heath.

It is hard enough for adults at the moment but we should stop and wonder about what children are thinking when they hear and see all this. Schools are having to tell staff, parents and pupils difficult, unsettling news against a background of this doom-laden vocabulary and I fear that the new lexicon of the pandemic makes children feel greater stress and more anxiety.

The wellbeing of young people was recognised as a huge issue before the Covid 19 outbreak and yet their wellbeing is being put under pressure by the way the grownups talk and write.

We worry about what kids are doing during the pandemic but we should be just as concerned about what they are thinking; the need to protect them mentally is greater now than ever.


Peter Hogan has been the Head of schools in the UK and Asia for 20 years. He writes about schools, teaching and learning here at hogan.education and can be contacted at peter@hogan.education