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 shootings ends city’s hiatus from violence since outset of pandemic

So far this year there have been 24 shootings in Surrey. There were 45 in 2019

South Surrey banner drop marks Global Day of Action

Fridays for Future effort targeted four city overpasses

UPDATE: NDP asks Elections BC to investigate Liberal voter fraud allegations in Surrey-Fleetwood

Liberal MLA candidate for Surrey-Fleetwood Garry Thind issued a written statement Wednesday afternoon

Bellingham boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Delta police launch drone program

Drones can fly day or night in a variety of weather to help Delta police and firefighters

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read