Written by Donna Mazyck, NASN Executive Director
You’ve likely heard the common adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” more times than you can count. That saying is so common, though, because it’s true. And never has that become clearer than in these current times, when the mental wellness of so many, including our young students, has become a top of mind topic.
We’ve reached epidemic levels when it comes to the need for mental wellness for students of all age levels, and it’s not an area that can be tackled alone. It takes, as they say, a village. And school nurses are a critical member of that village. People have told me that school nurses aren’t mental health professionals, but I would challenge us to really think about the mental health supports in schools. Therapists provide the most intense level of support. Those who connect with students are part of mental health supports—and that falls solidly in the purview of the school nurse. Mental health, mental wellness, and the role of school nurses are interconnected.
We recently recorded a webinar with one school nurse, Becky Kilfoyle, who collaborated with the school counselor at her school. She would see students coming frequently to the health room with vague physical symptoms, and she and the counselor were able to put together a program that helped students get in tune with what was happening in their body and help them connect the dots. School nurses can team up with another member of the student services team to promote social and emotional learning and understanding to make sure students grow their ability to express what’s going on with them.
Initiatives for student mental wellness are gaining traction across the country. One such project, the CALM initiative, helps school nurses provide a six-week intervention for children who are diagnosed with anxiety. NASN consulted with the project for several years, and we’re seeing year-over-year gains within the program, and improved outcomes in students.
Since 2014, NASN collaborated with the National Center for School Mental Health to provide resources and training for school nurses. The program, Mental Health Training Interventions for Health Providers in Schools (MH-TIPS), helped school nurses support student mental wellbeing. In addition, NASN is a member of the National Coordinating Committee on School Health and Safety, which is a national group of school and student health organizations that will focus in 2021 on school and student mental wellbeing.
Being able to help develop the programs and address the needs of all students gives them the tools they need to identify what they’re feeling, whether it’s anxiety or depression or something else, and get the help that is right for them at the right time.
The more agency we can have over steering the conversation toward improved student mental wellness, the more we will see healthier, happier students in schools. We advocate for school nurse inclusion in these conversations—our involvement is critical to the success not only of these programs, but for the students themselves.
More on Student Mental Wellness:
Donna Mazyck will join Ashley Finley, Senior Advisor to the President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Kathleen Minke, Executive Director of the National Association of School Psychologists, on the panel discussion, “It Takes a Village: Community Unification in Student Mental Wellness” during the NCSSS Student Mental Wellness Summit March 25-26.
Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE, began working at NASN in 2011. Donna spent most of her nursing career in community-based settings. For 25 years, her practice focus has been school health. Donna began her school health career as a high school nurse. She worked for 13 years as a state school nurse consultant at the Maryland State Department of Education. Donna served as President of the National Association of School Nurses from 2007-2009.