“People are encouraged not to gossip or spread stories about others because they can be destructive in many ways, yet rumors abound even in the best of times.”

Rumors are unfortunately a part of society and living in community. People are encouraged not to gossip or spread stories about others because they can be destructive in many ways, yet rumors abound even in the best of times. On a number of occasions in the past, I have had to write articles about rumors because they were causing damage within our community.

Even under normal circumstances, rumors have a sneaky way of being destructive to the very fabric of our community. When, however, you add the increased fear and anxiety that can be caused by an outbreak of disease, rumors can take on a whole new level of harm.

Already rumors have spread around Penang and in our community that have done damage. On Monday people were avoiding treatment and doctor visits because of a rumor of a coronavirus case at a local hospital. Within our own Dalat community we have had numerous false rumors that have hurt families and damaged relationships.

This is not the first time Dalat has experienced the fear and concerns created by an outbreak. During my time as head of school we have lived through SARS, H1N1 (Swine Flu), Bird Flu, MERS, and now this novel coronavirus from Wuhan. Unfortunately, in all of those outbreaks I have seen rumors do more damage within our community than the diseases themselves. The outbreaks have come and gone but the damage done by rumors have ruined relationships and negatively impacted our community long after. Unfortunately, it appears this could happen again.

So what can we do to avoid repeating history? The first step is when someone says something to you and it begins with the words “I heard. . . . .” please be careful with the information that follows. It may actually be true but commit to not sharing it with other people until you are sure. A good first step is to always ask the person “where did you hear that. . .” to see if there is any way to verify what you just heard. If it is something general about the outbreak and can be verified through research, take the time to look online to find out more before becoming another link in the rumor chain and spreading incorrect information, potentially adding to and compounding people’s fears.

Disease outbreaks can be alarming and we do need to take health concerns very seriously. However, while we are taking appropriate action regarding the risks of the outbreak, we must remember the inherent risks we take when we allow rumors to damage relationships and heighten fear.

Thank you to the families who have willingly self-quarantined as part of our current health measures. We will continue to take reasonable precautions and steps at school and take the health of our community seriously. Let’s work together to manage the fears and flood of information and act with wisdom, care, and compassion.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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