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Suicide prevention training implemented in NY education system

August 19, 2011
by News release
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Albany, N.Y. — TheNew York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH), with New York City-based
Kognito Interactive, has announced the inauguration of an innovative three-year program to train 30,000 high school educators in suicide prevention using Kognito's At-Risk online training simulation.

All of the State's 1231 public high schools and their private counterparts are eligible to apply for the program, which goes live today. Schools interested in joining the program can visit online and follow the registration link.

"Depression and other mental illnesses begin in the teen years. Early treatment can have a real impact on disease progression," said Melanie Puorto, Director of NYSOMH's Suicide Prevention Initiative. The statistics in New York State are compelling, she noted.

According to 2009 data (the most recent available) from a CDC survey of the State's youth between the ages of 14 and 19:

  • 22.6 percent reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks in the previous 12 months
  • 18.2 percent had been bullied on school property
  • 13.3 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide
  • 7.4 percent of youth had attempted suicide one or more times

"Kognito's training enhances our agency's youth suicide prevention efforts by providing educators with a virtual practice environment where they engage in role-play conversation with student avatars that exhibit signs of depression, substance abuse, bullying and thoughts of suicide. In this process, they learn to identify students at-risk, how to approach them to discuss their concern, and how to refer them to support services," Puorto said.

"At-Risk for High School Educators is the first online training available to provide realistic and risk-free role-play exercises in identifying, speaking with, and referring troubled youth," said Ron Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Kognito. "Developed with input from some of the country's leading authorities on youth suicide prevention and hundreds of educators, the resulting training can help connect students to treatment early on -- critical to improving mental health outcomes and to mitigating the kinds of tragedies that can scar entire communities."

Launched in 2010, At-Risk for High School Educators is listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. An earlier version, At-Risk for University Faculty, was the first training simulation to be added to this prestigious national registry.

A recent Kognito study of more than 300 teachers in 40 states showed that those who completed the At-Risk training were significantly more likely to identify and talk to high-school students exhibiting signs of psychological distress and refer them for professional help. Demos and trailers of the At-Risk trainings are available online.