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

Surrey’s Boze Corn Maze set to open with one big ‘50’ in the design

This year’s maze has some ‘social-distancing bubbles’ built into it, says farmer Mike Bose

Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society doing ‘better than we were expecting’ amid COVID-19

At one point, the board thought it might have a donation shortfall of $250,000

Delta police investigating shots fired in Tsawwassen

No injuries reported after police called to Parkrove Crescent Sunday afternoon (Aug. 9)

South Surrey boy’s lemonade stand raises $670 for baby Lucy on BC Day weekend

Zach Young, 6, wanted to help with purchase of Vancouver infant’s costly drug ‘to help her get better’

Delta artist John Horton named to Order of British Columbia

Honour for significant contributions made to the appreciation and safety of B.C.’s coastal history

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Fraser Valley Bandits fall to Edmonton in CEBL final

Bandits lose 90-73 to Stingers in Sunday’s Summer Series final

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Most Read