Parents don't trust schools to handle chronic disease, mental health issues

Fewer than half of U.S. schools have full-time nurses on staff, with significant variation by region.
By Amy Wallace  |  Sept. 18, 2017 at 12:36 PM
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Sept. 18 (UPI) -- A new national poll found the majority of parents are not confident in schools' ability to handle chronic disease or mental health issues in their children.

The poll, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, also found that just 38 percent of parents are very confident in schools' ability to help a student with mental health problems.

Nearly 77 percent of parents surveyed said they were confident schools would be capable of administering first aid for minor injuries.

"Parents feel schools can handle basic first aid, but are less sure about urgent health situations such as an asthma attack, epileptic seizure, or serious allergic reaction," Sarah Clark, of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and co-director of the poll, said in a press release.

"And they have the most uncertainty around whether schools can identify and assist a student with a mental health problem. One of the challenges of addressing mental health is that there are so many facets. At the elementary level, this might include prolonged sadness, anger management problems, or undiagnosed ADHD. For older students, it may be anxiety about college entrance tests, a problem with drug use, or suicidal thoughts."

Nearly 61 percent of elementary school parents and 57 percent of junior and high school parents believe a school nurse is at their child's school five days a week. The reality is that fewer than half of all U.S. schools have full-time nurses on staff, according to the National Association of School Nurses.

"Parents may want to learn more about how their child's school works to identify and support students struggling with mental health issues, and advocate for increased resources if needed," Clark said.

"Parents of children with special health needs should work directly with school personnel to understand the onsite availability of school nurses, and to ensure non-medical staff are prepared to handle urgent health-related situations that may arise during the school day."

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