Abbotsford School District superintendent Kevin Godden’s Nov. 21 blog post on youth mental health struck some online controversy.

Top educator strikes controversy with mental health post

Abbotsford superintendent writes many cases of youth mental health not clinical; critics say he’s oversimplifying

A blog post on youth mental health put out by the Abbotsford School District’s chief staffer last week stirred some controversy online, and the superintendent now says he may put out a part two to the post to clarify his position.

Titled “Are we the source of student mental health challenges?” Superintendent Kevin Godden’s post drew from a talk put on by psychologist Stan Kutcher at a provincial superintendents’ conference in Vancouver recently. In the post, Godden questioned whether society was over-medicalizing mental wellness.

“While I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, (it) was rather dismissive. Especially with the concluding paragraph that he was raised by tough-minded parents, coaches, and turned out OK, and perhaps we needed to turn to parenting like that. It was very dismissive,” said Karen Copeland, an Abbotsford mental health advocate and founder of Champions for Community Wellness.

RELATED: Youth mental health services lacking, says Abbotsford mom

She said the article wasn’t necessarily wrong – “I just think it’s incomplete.” There is validity in learning to discern between mental health issues and mood issues that can be solved through better self-care, such as exercise and diet, Copeland said.

“I think that the blog post really kind of focused in on that far end of the spectrum where we’re just labelling things as a mental health issue without going further up the spectrum to how do we make that distinction between what is typical to what’s more concerning to what maybe requires more clinical intervention,” she said.

“Anytime you write an article or promote an opinion that’s related to mental health, I think you need to acknowledge that there are people that do struggle significantly with their mental health, and I don’t think that came through in the article.”

RELATED: Foundry Abbotsford opens its doors to youth in need

Parts of the article, Copeland said, bordered on the “tough love” take on mental health – that mental health issues would be mostly resolved if more parents were tougher on their children.

“The demographic that is at highest risk for suicide is middle-aged males who were raised with tough love, who were raised to hold it all in, who were raised to suck it up,” Copeland said. “There are some people who will have an inherent resiliency to be able to manage that and to cope with that, and then there are others who won’t, and I think that needs to be acknowledged as well.”

But Godden said he wasn’t trying to be dismissive of those who struggle with mental health issues, and who need of professional or clinical help.

RELATED: Kids in crisis: Two part series on youth mental health

“I’ve devoted my life to working with kids who have disabilities and who have challenges. So there are a portion of kids who have legitimate mental illness that we ought to address. The point that Dr. Kutcher makes and that I make is that we will not be able to properly address the needs of kids and youth who have a legitimate mental health issue if we conflate what a mental illness is,” Godden said.

“The point is that the resources that we ought to bring to those folks should be pointed at them and less so at youth who have issues that might otherwise be perceived as just stressful or difficult, but that is a part of everyday life is what Dr. Kutcher would say.”

Godden pointed to things like making sure kids don’t sit on their phones late into the evening or night to make sure they get a good night’s sleep as ways to improve mental wellness among those who likely wouldn’t need professional help.

With that said, Godden responded to the criticism that his post lacked necessary nuance by saying “there might be a part two” to the blog post.

“In the whole notion of response to challenges, there’s a notion of prevention and awareness, intervention, and this blog was really about prevention and awareness. It is perhaps a reasonable comment that people have made that this doesn’t deal with what is the intervention that professionals have to utilize to try to support kids and youth with legitimate mental health issues.”

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

AbbySchoolsBCed

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A driver pulls up to the new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Weddings, funerals have ‘potential to become a super-spreader’ event: Fraser Health

As of Oct. 21, health authority accounted for 70% of total provincial cases

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
More than 200 new COVID-19 cases linked to Fraser Health region: Dr. Henry

Provincial health officer appeals to people to keep gatherings small

Reni Masi file photo
Former Surrey school trustee, Delta MLA dies at age 87

Reni Masi served as Liberal MLA for nine years, then as a Surrey school trustee for another nine

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s Senator Reid reporting first COVID-19 exposure

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read