Sue Hanly: observations as a middle school nurse

3 little words, "Tell me more"...
Happy summer! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. For me, it has been a season of travel to visit family in Iowa and Illinois plus touring in Tennessee, Canada and Scotland.

The news from Adolescent Wellness can be summarized as promoting wellness along the prevention continuum, from birth onward. Here are three ideas to consider:

1) If you are a new parent or know one, check into this resource for activities early in the prevention continuum:

2) If you have a school-age son or daughter, read  Sue Hanly's comments about her work as a middle school nurse in the Featured Guest section. A few points she made were:
  • stomachache or headache may mean more than physical distress
  • build communication simply saying, "Tell me more"
  • permit your school nurse to communicate with the pediatrician
3) If you are an educator or youth group leader, implement th e safe, practical, and effective resource from Boston Children's Hospital called 'Break Free From Depression'. Training is on-demand and AWI is happy to help you define the referral protocol. AWI also helps train teens as peer mentors, allowing the adult facilitator to break any size group into smaller group activities. To help your school or youth group leverage peer mentoring with your implementation, email or  telephone  781-727-8617. 

One more thing that made me happy this summer was an article about a school district in New York implementing the Break Free curriculum after it was introduced by Tory Masters, a caring citizen in their community. Here are excerpts from the article:   
  • Mr. Stewart said, "At East Hampton, we do a pretty good job of identifying kids-our students do an even better job of just showing empathy for others. That's the culture of our school right now. Knowledge is power-even better, action is power," he said. He added that after each module, the students are given a student assistance request form with options for students to speak with a counselor right away, schedule an appointment, or check a box stating that they are not in need of any help. The follow-up is what's key," he continued. 
  • "We've already had several students make appointments to speak with school psychologists." Julia Petersen, who has been a guidance counselor at East Hampton High School for two years, said that since the implementation of the (Break Free From Depression) curriculum earlier this year, she has seen a significant increase in students seeking help. She said that with the help of the student assistance request forms, each of the school's six counselors has had at least one student come and talk to them this year. "It's nice to get that kid on your radar," she said. 
  • Others report an increase in students coming in with concerns about their friends, one saying that, 'At least half if not more than the serious things that come to me is because a friend of a student came forward.'
The link to the full article is here.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!  

PATHS is the gold standard for elementary grade curricula?    

PATHS is the acronym for Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies. You will find it listed on this page along with an overview video.
Featured guest

Sue Hanly spoke about her career as a middle school nurse at the annual AWI event. Here are key excerpts; the link for the full text follows:

"... countless students come to see me with various complaints: the major ones being stomachaches and headaches...asking the right questions gives me the opportunity to educate them on the effects of stress and anxiety on their bodies. I was at a conference once and the presenter suggested the use of 3 little words, "Tell me more"... very simple, but very effective. 

... I think all of us want to be heard! We need to really take the time to look our children, friends, co-workers, spouses in the eye and listen to them. We need to be kind to everyone we meet b/c we don't know what may be going on in their lives. 6th graders in particular often present with major anxiety issues. It is a huge transition going from elementary school to middle school. 

...We have been fortunate in our district to have a wonderful team chairperson who is absolutely on board with students being picked up for social emotional concerns even if there are no learning difficulties detected in the testing! It's about time! 

... I have a unique perspective because I am not only the nurse in my building but I am a mom who has been on the same journey. I remember how lonely I felt, especially at the beginning. 

...A few months ago we did our SOS program for 7th graders which stands for Signs of Suicide but the biggest message is ACT-acknowledge, care and tell. Every year, we educate over 200 students and their parents. We also screen the students. This child's screening was off the charts and she indicated suicidal thoughts. Even with this knowledge, the parents still hesitated to get her help. I spoke with the mother myself and told her my story..or my daughter Caroline's story. I asked her if I could have a release of information form to speak to the pediatrician. She agreed and I had a wonderful talk with the MD. I let her know what has been going on since 6th grade with this student. This young lady is now on meds and counseling as well and is a totally different person.. It is almost as though she finally felt heard! I wish school nurses had releases to speak to all student's pediatricians. Maybe then the statistic about delay in treatment or even worse, no treatment would improve. I am a firm believer that a team approach is the best way!

...And speaking of Caroline, she is now 28 years of age, almost 29. She has her undergraduate degree from Stonehill College in early elementary education and her Master's Degree in Special Ed from Leslie in Cambridge. She is a well-loved 4th grade teacher. I have had the opportunity to visit her classroom and meet her students. All over her classroom are reminders that Kindness Matters. To say I am a proud and grateful mother is an understatement.

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Art by Mary Bevilaqua and Ana Natalia Epstein

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