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Catholic schools need to be much more careful when promoting secular ‘mental health’ resources

Catholic schools need to be much more careful when promoting secular ‘mental health’ resources

Earlier this year you may recall seeing this rather disturbing headline “Teacher told to apologise for addressing a classroom of female pupils, ‘girls.’”

As the teacher involved explained at the time;

I was ordered to apologise to a Year 7 class at my private girls’ school — for addressing them as ‘girls’. I was told by 11-year-olds that ‘not everyone here identifies as female’ and that I had to respect their chosen pronouns.”

When the teacher in question, ‘Josie’ [not her real name] refused to capitulate to this demand, the girls made their point the following day by writing their pronouns on the board, including two that identified as ‘they/them’, and staged a lunchtime protest.

“Rather than treating this as a breakdown of discipline” said Josie, “my head of department ordered me to apologise to the students.”

Since then, she has moved on to another school, this time a mixed Catholic secondary school where sadly, she has had to raised concerns about a particular resource aimed at ameliorating mental health issues under the banner of its well-being policy and practice within the school. “Wellbeing” awards and accreditation are now vigorously sought after and pursued by schools to add to the ever growing addiction to kite marks on school websites it would seem. I don’t doubt the genuine intent behind such activity, but the end does not always justify the means. 

So my contact Josie has a problem with the teen mental health app being promoted by the school, namely “Kooth”  – This is yet another alarming sign of yet another Catholic school simply falling in to lockstep with the prevailing trend of highly questionable state sponsored resources specially crafted to target vulnerable adolescents. I say ‘state sponsored’ because the NHS is one of Kooth’s biggest clients. So what? You might ask, isn’t the fact of the ever so trustworthy NHS being a major client of this online app a good sign ? No, frankly it isn’t, especially when you take into consideration the track record of the NHS on key issues like the treatment of youngsters with gender identity dysphoria [transgender] in to account. The Cass Review on the infamous NHS Tavistock clinic is conclusive in its findings about how the NHS must do better on this front.   

Kooth Mental Health Resources WarningYou don’t need to be a Catholic to have concerns about Kooth. The renowned and highly credible campaigning and advocacy organisation have produced an excellent analysis on this mental health app being pushed in schools;

In the article, Shelley Charlesworth with whom I have had many a courteous exchange of emails on these questions and who is an atheist, expresses deep concerns about Kooth. And when you dig in to her investigative critique, one can see why;

“Headings for the online chats include ‘so im trans’ ‘Trans hairstyle’, ‘what’s the best tape for binding’, ‘Gender issues’, ‘Non binary name’, ‘Medical transitions suck’, ‘Agender or non-binary’,‘Trans struggles’. In ‘Coming Out As Trans’ a girl asks for help as she doesn’t like being a girl and thinks her parents won’t support her. One responder tells her to ask a teacher to get the school to change her name but make sure they don’t tell her parents.”

Unqualified online advisers suggest all sorts of questionable notions to vulnerable teenage girls, the worst among them being that perhaps if they don’t like or find their periods “unpleasant” then they are most likely ‘trans’. Perhaps in their lack of scrutiny and naivety senior leaders at schools including the Catholic school where Josie teaches are under the impression that Kooth must be ok to recommend as the content treating eating disorders encourages teenagers to accept their bodies, to reject harmful thoughts and behaviours. Not so with the transgender ideology though. As Shelley [herself a highly experienced BBC journalist] concludes:

“Kooth cannot claim to be a serious provider of mental health care for its predominantly teenage girl users while not offering an alternative explanation about trans identification. Its content should reflect that there’s been a rapid rise in girls identifying as boys, it should suggest possible reasons for this, and explain the harms of puberty blockers and the irreversible effects of cross-sex hormones and surgeries. It should talk about the growing number of detransitioners. In other words, it needs to stop following a discredited, politicised approach to gender-related distress.”

I have continually signposted teachers and parents to the excellent work of TransgenderTrend because it is now the UK’s leading organisation calling for evidence-based healthcare for children and young people and for factual science-based teaching in schools. It is an invaluable resource for parents and professionals worried about the teaching of gender identity theory in schools and for those seeking evidence-based information about treatment and approach towards children with gender-related distress.

Furthermore, it enables those who browse its website to ‘join the dots’ as it were on just how the “T” and the “Q” all fits in with the increasingly relentless “LGBTQ+” agenda pervading all our institutions not least our schools and colleges. Here she provides a first class analysis of the infamous “No Outsiders” programme for primary schools under the ubiquitous ‘diversity, equality and inclusion’. 

Back in 2016-19 when I was Schools Commissioner and Professional Adviser to the Episcopal Vicar for Education in Portsmouth Diocese, I tried again and again to get the Catholic Education Service to take the analytical work of seriously and even recommend [with appropriate caveats] their excellent guidance on these sensitive issues for schools. Such appeals were always ignored and never taken seriously. So I am not surprised by the testimony I hear from teachers like Josie and others about what they’ve discovered in some of our Catholic schools which mirrors the pattern of disturbing trends in mainstream education generally. However, I do feel somewhat vindicated by the fact that in June 2022 the founder and director of TransgenderTrend, Stephanie Davies-Arai, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to children. And what of our teacher Josie? Well, when she raised her concerns that Kooth [and therefore her school] is promoting the idea of child-to-child psychological support and when she asked Well-being Awards UK to send their academic research that backed up the idea that children could be therapeutic councillors to each other, they complained to her head teacher who duly told to her to “stop asking questions.”

Meanwhile in a letter dated 20th November to an MP who raised concerns, Maria Caulfield MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy states;

“this matter has been escalated to the national and regional safeguarding and mental health teams due to the severity of the issues brought to our attention. NHS England is also raising the matter with Kooth directly, and will update the DHSC on the outcome. The DfE will continue to work with the DHSC and NHS England as it investigates this matter and will consider any further action required.”

2024 is going to be a very interesting one as we decipher the fallout from the new DfE guidance on children with gender dysphoria as well as the consultation period on the new draft guidance on relationships, sex and health education. Parents and teachers alongside them, especially if they themselves have school aged children are going to have to engage far more robustly with the government on these issues otherwise the stark warning of Pope St. John Paul in 1982 in Familiaris Consortio will continue to be borne out by bitter experience;

“Families themselves will be the first victims of the very things towards which they have shown indifference.”



Edmund P Adamus is education consultant to and Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Discrimination Against Christians       

This article was first published in the Catholic Herald.

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