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.

Just Posted

Camp closing means it’s time to heal and move on, says MLA

Watershed moment for Maple Ridge, says D’Eith

Local rink wins King Cash Spiel

Ryan Rink wins World Curling Tour event in Maple Ridge

Several charges after arrest Friday in Maple Ridge

Court appearance Monday in Port Coquitlam

Maple Ridge’s Tiller’s Folly kick off international music series in Surrey

Come Dancing Around the World takes place at the Surrey Arts Centre

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Vancouver police could be using drones to fight crime by end of year

The police department has already purchased three drones, as well as three others for training

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Grand opening of Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery at Chilliwack cause for celebration

Ribbon-cutting with dignitaries, Molson brass and family marked the official grand opening

B.C. cabinet minister denies that Surrey mayor’s friend attended government meeting

Surrey councillor questions Vancouver businessman Bob Cheema’s involvement in official meeting

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Powder the muskets, zombies are coming!

Fort Langley National Historic Site offers up A Survivalist’s Guide to a Zombie Apocalypse, Sept. 28

Petition to rename park after teen overdose victim to get hearing

With 3,500 signatures so far, organizer is thinking of closing down online campaign

Most Read