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As kids’ anxiety spikes, school nurses step in to address mental-health needs

A few hours into the first day of school, a young man entered the nurse’s office at Libertyville High School complaining of stomach pains.

The school nurse began asking him routine questions to determine the root of his troubles: Can you describe your symptoms? What have you eaten? Are you on any medication?

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.