Save a life with Kognito At-Risk

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and CAPS is reminding the campus community that it is time to do something

| September 17, 2017

Photo courtesy of Leslie Robinson.

According to the national data on campus suicide, one in 12 U.S. college students make a suicide plan and over 1,000 suicides occur on U.S. college campuses each year. Approximately 80 Americans take their own life and 1,500 more attempt to do so every day in the United States.

To save lives, provide a platform for those in need and combat statistics, UNC Charlotte contracts with Kognito At-Risk, a health simulation company that teaches individuals in higher education ways of engaging in conversations that demonstrate care, appropriate concern and support for those who may be in psychological distress.

The strategic plan for suicide prevention at UNC Charlotte calls for continued growth and utilization of Kognito. To that end, UNC Charlotte Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has recently expanded access to make this online training in mental health available to everyone in the campus community including students.

“The long-term goal is to get as many students, faculty and staff to complete the training as possible so that the entire campus is prepared to recognize warning signs and help students get connected with support when they need it most,” said Paige Thornton, the graduate assistant working to maintain and market Kognito and other programming for campus-wide suicide prevention.

This interactive online training aims to prepare students, faculty and staff to identify and help those in distress and/or at risk for suicide. The training walks users through simulations depicting scenarios commonly seen in college settings, such as having to navigate party scenes, pressure from parents, school stress and relationships. Users learn to first discern commonplace behavior from behavior that warrants concern, and then how to best respond if someone is in crisis.

For example, Kognito teaches students to recognize when behaviors such as drinking or procrastination are within a relatively reasonable range for college students versus when they are more likely cause for concern. In one scenario, you navigate a party and lunch, talking to your friends about life challenges, such as coming out to parents, break-ups and school-related pressure. As you go through the program, you learn how to best respond to these issues, recognize signs that may suggest risk for suicide and learn how to help those exhibiting warning signs get connected with the support they need.

The program addresses how to identify and respond to exaggerated talk versus real talk.

“All talk must be taken seriously,” Thornton said. “We can’t know what a person means without asking, and it’s better to ask then not and thereby risk the possibility that someone won’t get the support they need before it’s too late. It’s not uncommon for people seriously thinking about suicide to not say so directly or even play it off as a joke because they’re worried others will respond with judgment or not care.”

Thornton said to ask if what the person is talking about is unclear.

“If someone actually was not thinking about suicide, by asking them what they mean, they’ll learn their words have power and to say what they mean if they don’t want to raise concern,” she said.

The Kognito training gives users opportunities to have conversations with virtual students and peers who can respond and show emotion.

Kendyll Graham, graduate assistant in the Center for Wellness Promotion, completed the training.

“Kognito At-Risk is a good program. I liked how it was animated and I was in charge of what decisions I wanted to make,” Graham said.

Thornton said the scenarios in the program are realistic.

“I’ve actually had friends and acquaintances dealing with the same issues and showing this in similar ways. What you choose to say to the virtual students in the program affects their responses,” Thornton said.

You are encouraged to take the training online at http://caps.uncc.edu/counseling-and-consultation-services/risk-simulation-training.

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