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Libertyville, IL: School nurses have to deal with "growing number of mental health issues"

Sept 2, 2018, Pocono Record: (Libertyville, IL) As kids’ anxiety spikes, school nurses step in to address mental-health needs … Cameron Traut, who has been the school nurse for Libertyville District 128 for 14 years, wasn’t surprised when the student eventually revealed that he had a history of mental health issues and was taking prescription pills to treat anxiety. It’s a scene that school nurses are expecting many times over as the new year opens, reflecting both the growing number of mental health issues among school-age children, and how the traditional role of school nurses has evolved from cleaning up playground scrapes and taking temperatures to meet the needs of this growing population…. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 20, or 2.6 million, U.S. children ages 6 to 17 had current anxiety or depression diagnosed by a health care provider in 2011-12. School nurses in Illinois say the increase is evident in the students from elementary to high school who enter their offices each day, requiring not only bandages and ice packs but also a quiet space to break from stress. Nurses now have to schedule meetings with parents about their child’s mental health histories and needs, then learn the side effects and potential complications associated with mood-altering medications. To meet the new demands, school nurses are offered extra training in mental health as well as resources from the National Association of School Nurses. They are adding relaxation rooms to the typical beds in the nurse’s office, and they have had to develop detailed cooperation plans with school guidance counselors and social workers, who are trained to handle such issues but, for better or worse, are not always the first stop for students seeking a nurturing response in a school building. “It’s just a safe place for them to come,” said Linda Vollinger, the high school’s nurse, who left an emergency room job 14 years ago to bring her skills to students. In that time, she’s been amazed by the way mental-health issues have evolved from being closely guarded secrets to something she discusses with about three students each week. “It’s a huge culture shift,” said Vollinger, who is also president of the Illinois Association of School Nurses. “It’s great that we’re seeing that stigma ripped away.” … The prevalence of mental-health issues has prompted structural changes at Stagg and other schools. Three years ago, district officials allowed Vollinger and other school staff to create an “intervention” classroom located between the nurse’s office and the guidance counselor’s office…. Elementary school level Elementary school nurses are also encountering students with mental health needs. In standard paperwork turned in to her office at the start of this school year, Lynda Kim, school nurse at Willow Bend Elementary in Rolling Meadows, took note when the parents of one student listed a psychotropic drug as one of the medications school staff should be aware the child is taking….

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