If you are looking for unbiased virtual counseling services for your children, the UK-based mental health app “Kooth” may not be the way to go. According to The Post, a publication from the UnHerd website, an online blogging community that hopes to “push back against the herd mentality,” the Kooth platform is anything but neutral.
The 15-year-old platform bills itself as the go-to “online mental health community” for youth, but The Post reports “it is riddled with highly politicised trans-activist assumptions and leaves a user base predominantly composed of unhappy adolescent girls largely free to ‘support’ one another in affirming and intensifying their shared gender confusion.” Kooth is currently available in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS) to “more than 60 percent of” the country’s 10-25 year-olds.
According to Kooth’s 2021 survey of mental health in the UK, the pandemic and “subsequent lockdowns had a clear adverse effect on the mental health and wellbeing of the nation. The impact of COVID-19 has seen an 89% upsurge in the usage by adults of Kooth’s digital mental health platform. For children and young people, this was 42%.” The data was collected from its “over 192k active, anonymous Kooth service users in NHS Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020).” The ages of the users ranged from 10-85. Sixty-three percent (63%) of “under 18s self presented as having severe needs” according to the data collected.
Kooth executives, CEO Tim Barker, and CFO Sanjay Jawa have now expanded services to the US, announcing a pilot program in Pennsylvania. The program is in response, they say, to the December 2021 announcement from the US Surgeon General Advisory on the Youth Mental Health Crisis. The Biden administration has set aside billions in funding to address mental health issues in youth in the United States. Barker explains that the Kooth pilot program focuses on early identification and intervention. The hope is to reach a “school population of 150,000 students in 30 districts” while building a “blueprint” for other states down the road, according to Barker and Jawa.
In March 2023, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) selected Kooth as the Virtual Services Platform of choice for all 13-25 year-olds in California. The program is slated to launch in January 2024 as a “key component” of Governor Newsom’s $4.7 billion Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health through the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI).” Kooth will “also integrate with other partners to provide a seamless user experience, including providing services and supports to children (ages 0- 12) and their parents/caregivers.”
🧵 UK Digital Health Company "Kooth" contracts with California for digital health to minors at a time when parental involvement and responsibilities in the state are being removed via legislation and the expansion of WSCC model of Community Schools…https://t.co/8nA184f2L9pic.twitter.com/SID17uail6
A well-respected practicing psychoanalyst, David Bell, blew the whistle on gender identity services for youth at the Gender and Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Institute in the UK. The court found “GIDS was unable to produce for the court any data relating to outcomes and effects, whether desirable or adverse, in children who had been prescribed puberty blockers; nor could it provide details of the number and ages of children who had been given them.”
Dr. Hilary Cass ran an independent review of GIDS, concluding that the service was poorly managed and failed to follow the rigorous protocols necessary to justify life-altering gender-affirming treatments for youth. The Interim Cass Report, published in Feb. 2022, criticized England’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) for pursuing an “affirmation-only” treatment model for transgender youth. NHS shut down the program in Spring 2023 as a result of her recommendations and a lawsuit questioning the ability of minors to consent to life-changing sex change treatments properly.
Kooth Advocates for Gender-Affirming Care Model
Kooth has allegedly ignored the recommendations produced by the review and the court ruling. Instead, Kooth allegedly follows guidance from the “affirmation” model “endorsed by the highly politicized British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP).” BACP published a “Memorandum of Understanding” in Nov. 2022 to “make it clear” that “conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation (including asexuality) is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence.” Notably, in the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended gender-affirming care as the treatment of choice for youth struggling with gender dysphoria. In some cases, gender-affirming care includes mental health support that excludes parental consent and supports chemical castration and medical procedures that alter one’s gender.
Conversion therapy is a “reparative” practice used by some therapists who seek to help youth align their identity with “heterosexual and cisgender norms.” In the model allegedly espoused by Kooth, therapists would, therefore, be discouraged from questioning or exploring a client’s rationale or ideation about their gender identity. Traditionally, therapists have resisted the idea that every notion a client presents as “truth” should be affirmed without exploration. Rather, a therapist’s role is to help the client explore and constructively question his or her basis for a given perspective or worldview.
According to The Post:
“Kooth operates according to a pyramid model, offering users first a library of “therapeutic” articles (riddled with gender ideology), then “peer support” (online forums where girls reinforce each other’s preoccupations with gender). This is followed by limited in-person assistance for the most acute distress, delivered remotely in a chat window by “Online Emotional Wellbeing Practitioners”: individuals who don’t even need a counselling qualification, are paid £20-26k a year and moderate the message boards and provide chat-window’ emotional support.”
Kooth partners with schools, health systems, health plans, and employers to offer “digital mental health therapeutics,” according to information from the US corporate website.
Thank you to all the students at @Rainford_High who stopped by this afternoon and helped me fill my banner with things to do when you're feeling down!💃There are some really great ideas on here if you need some inspiration for the weekend 😀 pic.twitter.com/9cioZMTOOX
The only way to fully explore the digital health platform is to register as a youth or a provider. According to Transgendertrend.com, minors can choose to explore articles “written mainly by Kooth staff,” or “peer support in chat and forums, or counseling” services provided by the Kooth platform. However, it seems very few youths will actually receive personalized counseling services. “The limited availability of free counseling appears to be built into the system,” according to Transgendertrend.com.
Transgendertrend.com reports that Kooth may not be safe for all individuals because it is thin on actual human support and tends to politicize gender and sexuality-related topics. Reportedly Kooth’s peer-to-peer counselors may “promote breast binding” without providing “any form of therapy.” The site also states that articles on the Kooth app are biased toward gender-affirming care and tell “young people that being misgendered can be harassment or cause psychic harm.” The site leaves open opportunities for immature teenage girls to “self-diagnose and pass on every detail of their latest condition to each other, as they did with tics and Tourette’s during lockdown. It’s a sure-fire way of spreading negative emotions, as girls respond with empathy to the extent that they take on the condition themselves.”
Other articles allegedly discuss menstruation as being “really unpleasant” and the idea that there is “still a deeply ingrained cultural stigma against those who menstruate. Unfortunately, if you fall under the huge umbrella of gender non-conforming (GNC), periods might also be an unwelcome reminder of gender dysphoria.”
In other words, it seems the platform allegedly assigns negative connotations to many of the normal experiences of puberty in many cases without the proper face-to-face counseling that would help a child explore his or her developmental growing pains.