Virtual suicide prevention resources aim to train teachers to look for signs of student distress

Updated: June 15, 2020 01:58 PM
Created: June 14, 2020 10:53 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Minnesota Departments of Health and Education are partnering with each other to bring better resources to the state for suicide prevention.

In 2017, nearly 800 Minnesotans died by suicide, that same year, nearly 10,000 self-inflicted non-fatal injuries were reporter. 

"Currently in Minnesota, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death," said Stephanie Downey, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for MDH. "Second leading cause of death among young people and young adults ages 15 to 34."

In an effort to combat those numbers, the partnership is to encourage teachers to use Kognito At-Risk training simulations to recognize the signs of a mentally distressed student in their classroom.

"They will be interacting in a role play situation with a virtual student," said Downey.

Through an online portal, those who work closely with any student from elementary to college can participate in virtual simulations and receive coaching tips on how to respond to a student in need.

"Going through a scenario where a student might be struggling with something, and they are able to through prompts in the system learn how to say what they might want to say with that student to help them through a situation where they're experiencing some mental distress," Downey said.

She adds that students are more likely to open up to someone they trust and that Kognito prepares educators and other adults to respond to that moment. The scenarios can range from being bullied, to falling behind in schoolwork and the list goes on.

Downey said the project has taken about a year to bring to Minnesota. She's hoping all of the school districts across state will use this new resource. Downey says they're hoping that this will give teachers, principals, counselors, coaches and anyone else that works throughout the school system a resource that will help them and students they serve.

"We just want to provide as many tools and resources that we can. Our mission with this is to create communities of leaders that are able to protect and maintain and promote the health of all of our students, said Downey.

More information on how to register for the program can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health's website.

Kognito At-Risk training demo:

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