Newly Updated Virtual Mental Health Training Equips College Students to Support Peers in Distress

NEW YORK, July 16, 2020 — As colleges and universities prepare to meet the mental health needs of students—who may or may not be on campus in the fall due to COVID-19—many are looking to virtual solutions. Kognito, a health simulation company, announced updates to its evidence-based virtual simulation At-Risk Mental Health for Students as a flexible online mental health training to help colleges improve students’ ability to succeed in 2020 and beyond. 
The new 40-minute At-Risk simulation emphasizes building skills that promote positive coping, help-seeking, positive self-concept, and growth mindset. Students engage with virtual students to recognize signs of distress in themselves and peers, and practice effective communication techniques to give peers support. Colleges can add their own custom resources into the simulation to expand student knowledge of mental health support outside of the counseling center, through programming like wellness programs, peer support groups, and academic counseling. 

Since its launch in 2010, over 300,000 students across over 300 institutions have used the original At-Risk for University Students simulation. During this time, numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of this simulation to increase conversations and help-seeking behaviors in students, including a recent randomized control trial conducted by Fordham University published in the Journal of the American Association of Suicidology. Universities often pair the simulation with its faculty counterpart, At-Risk for Faculty & Staff, which trains campus employees to talk with students about mental health and heightens awareness of their gatekeeping role within a community of care. 

Updates to At-Risk are based on how higher education’s response to student mental health has evolved over the past decade. Students face more stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before, accounting for an average 30-40% increase in counseling center utilization from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment grew by only 5%. Meanwhile, students are entering college lacking coping and resiliency skills compared to classes before them. 

Dr. Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer at The Jed Foundation (JED), was one of the subject matter experts who partnered with Kognito to help develop the At-Risk simulation’s updates. Dr. Schwartz was joined by counseling and student services leaders involved in the development process to ensure that the updated content reflected the current needs of college students.

“We’ve seen the mental health needs of the college student change and evolve,” says Dr. Schwartz.  “We know peer support on campus is a critical resource, since two-thirds of college students who are feeling suicidal will tell a friend first. Simulation technology is unique in that it can tailor content to individual students based on their existing knowledge, and give them a safe space to practice difficult conversations. Getting that confidence through a simulation like At-Risk is going to connect more students and support early intervention.” 

“This evolution of At-Risk reflects the current needs of today’s college student. While there are many unknowns about the future, we know that there will be an essential need for students to learn about mental health, support, and resiliency,” says Dr. Glenn Albright, Kognito Co-Founder. “Analyzing the changes we’ve seen in student attitudes and behavior from data collected over ten years, plus in pairing subject matter expertise with cutting edge simulation technology, we’re confident that At-Risk Mental Health for Students will continue to make an impact on many lives through conversation and connection.”

As institutions continue to navigate this period of uncertainty, many are looking to At-Risk Mental Health for Students given its online accessibility for remote students and effective format that quickly builds essential skills around mental health and peer-to-peer support. More information on At-Risk Mental Health for Students is available on Kognito’s website

About Kognito
Kognito is a health simulation company whose evidence-based simulations harness the power of role-play conversations with virtual humans to improve social, emotional, and physical health. Learn more at

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