The Rivers Secondary College (Richmond River High Campus), Lismore South Public School, Ballina Coast High School and Cabbage Tree Island Public School are among the first in NSW to welcome a highly trained School Wellbeing Nurse thanks to NSW Government funding which will place more than 100 specialists across the state.
One nurse will be based at the Rivers Secondary College and also service Lismore South Public School, and the second nurse will be based at Ballina Coast High School and also service Cabbage Tree Island Public School.
Local Nationals Member of the Legislative Council Ben Franklin said the wellbeing nurses are an important addition to existing supports in the school and community.
“The world can be a tough place and we know that young people face many different challenges, whether that be at home, at school, with peers, or out in the community. We want to make sure they know they have someone to turn to when they need it,” Mr Franklin said.
“Having two wonderful nurses dedicated to Northern Rivers Schools means that local students and their families have easy access to welcoming, non-stigmatising and confidential support.”
Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor said Wellbeing Nurses worked in partnership with other school staff, and assisted families in navigating local health and wellbeing services.
“These wonderful, supportive nurses are working in the schools – and with the schools – to ensure students and their families do not slip through the cracks,” Mrs Taylor said.
“This means a young person can approach a friendly clinician and get private, on-the-spot help from a specialist, whatever their health and wellbeing issue may be.”
Minister Taylor said the new registered nurses will provide support to students and parents as part of a four-year expansion of the successful School Wellbeing Nurse pilot.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the nurses form part of a wraparound mental health and wellbeing service available to NSW school students.
“It’s so important that students in NSW have access to a range of health, mental health and wellbeing services to ensure they feel supported throughout their time at school,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“Wellbeing nurses form part of this service, and will play a crucial role in ensuring students and their families are connected with external health, mental health and wellbeing services available in their local community.”
An independent evaluation from Urbis of the pilot of Wellbeing Nurses from July 2018 to September 2020 found the nurses were successful in establishing the model within schools, supporting students and families to achieve positive health and education outcomes, and linking school and community health and wellbeing interventions.
Students stated when they went to see the wellbeing nurse to talk about a physical issue, they often opened up about their mental health and the things that are really bothering them.
“Definitely for me it’s opened my eyes to a broader range of like health stuff not just ‘Oh they’re going to the counsellor for mental health,’ it’s like there’s a specific set of things they (wellbeing nurse) can do here,” one student said.
Feedback from parents was also overwhelmingly positive.
“Talking to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. And she can break it down… all the specialists and paediatricians I’ve been to I’ve walked away and gone ‘oh my god, I don’t know what that meant.’ Now I can go back to school and have another meeting with the nurse and say ‘this is what they’ve said…’ and she’ll say ‘this is what this actually means,’” one parent said.
The NSW Government has earmarked $46.8 million over four years as part of the 2020-21 NSW Budget to deliver 100 new school-based wellbeing nurses, which is a joint initiative of NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education.