Many parents don’t believe schools are prepared to help students with mental health problems and serious physical health issues, a new survey finds.
While 77 percent of parents were certain that schools would be able to provide first aid for minor issues such as cuts, they were less confident that schools could respond to more challenging health situations.
For example, only 38 percent believed schools could assist a student suspected of having a mental health problem.
The national poll on children’s health was released Monday by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.
“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, poll co-director, said in a university news release.
“And they have the most uncertainty around whether schools can identify and assist a student with a mental health problem,” she added.
“One of the challenges of addressing mental health is that there are so many facets,” Clark said. “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.”
“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.
The poll also found that about 3 in 5 patients believe a school nurse is on duty five days a week. But fewer than half of U.S. schools have full-time nurses, according to the National Association of School Nurses. Parents who thought schools had a full-time nurse felt more confident about the school’s ability to handle health issues, the poll showed.
Not having a full-time school nurse could be risky for students with health problems that may require an immediate response at school, such as giving medication or knowing when to call an ambulance, according to Clark.
“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,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on health problems at school.