US Surgeon General Advisory: How Virtual Trainings Can Help Schools Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

PK-12Mental HealthSuicide Prevention

In December 2021, the US Surgeon General issued a rare Advisory to bring attention to the urgent need to address youth mental health. The 53-page Advisory shares mental health trends, how the pandemic has amplified existing concerns, and outlines specific steps for institutions including schools and districts to take.

Here’s more information about the Advisory, its call to action for PK-12 educators, and how Kognito’s evidence-based simulations can support those efforts.

About the US Surgeon General’s Advisory on Youth Mental Health

In his opening letter, US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy writes that the “challenges today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate. And the effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating.”

Factors like the pandemic, civil unrest, and even social media have contributed to today’s crisis, and the Advisory outlines recommendations for both individuals and institutions—such as schools—to support the mental health of children and youth.

youth mental health

Call to Action for Educators, School Staff, and School Districts

The Advisory calls on educators to take action, with two pages of recommendations specifically for educators, school staff, and school districts.

The recommendations include:

  • Create positive, safe, and affirming school environments with efforts such as anti-bullying policies, bystander interventions, mental health education.
  • Expand social and emotional learning programs and other evidence-based approaches that promote healthy development.
  • Learn how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes. Take appropriate action when needed.
  • Provide a continuum of supports to meet student mental health needs, including evidence-based prevention practices and trauma-informed mental health care.
  • Expand the school-based mental health workforce, such as school counselors and social workers.
  • Support the mental health of all school personnel.
  • Promote enrolling and retaining eligible children in Medicaid, CHIP, or a Marketplace plan, so that children have health coverage that includes behavioral health services.
  • Protect and prioritize students with higher needs and those at higher risk of mental health challenges, such as students with disabilities, personal or family mental health challenges, or other risk factors (e.g., adverse childhood experiences, trauma, poverty).

Experiences at school have a major impact on student mental health. Even when mental health challenges are caused by factors outside of school, warning signs can often be seen in the classroom—trouble concentrating, being withdrawn, acting out, etc. Educators are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on the mental health of children and adolescents.

How Kognito Can Help

Kognito’s solutions for PK-12 schools are focused on addressing student mental health through the art and science of conversation. Through role-play simulations with virtual students, educators and students can learn skills such as recognizing warning signs, reaching out to at-risk students, and connecting them to further help when needed.

Many of our solutions align with recommendations provided by the US Surgeon General Advisory, particularly the following two as outlined in the report:

Learn how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes.

Provide a continuum of supports to meet student mental health needs, including evidence-based prevention practices and trauma-informed mental health care.

Below is a list of PK-12 simulations that can support schools and districts in their efforts to address the public health concern and play their vital role in in supporting the mental health of children and youth.

At-Risk for PK-12 Educators

A suite of research-proven products to teach PK-12 educators about mental health and suicide prevention which supports improved student wellness and school safety.

Building Respect

A bullying prevention program to teach educators how to respond to bullying incidents, address biased language in the classroom, reach out when they suspect signs of bullying, and reinforce staff responsibilities in reporting bullying behavior.

Trauma-Informed Practices for K12 Schools

An interactive role-play simulation for educators to build skills, confidence, and empathy that better support students whose behavior might be related to sources of trauma or distress.

As stated in the US Surgeon General Advisory, the need is urgent. A benefit of Kognito’s simulations is that they are completed online, and can be deployed quickly so you can rapidly build the capacity of educators to meet students’ elevated needs. We know educators are being tasked with a lot right now, and our simulations take as little as 30 minutes to complete. The need is now and Kognito is here to help.

Take the Next Step

If you’re an educational leader who’s interested in learning more about how you can use Kognito’s evidence-based solutions to support student mental health, contact us at info@kognito.com. Or better yet, take a demo to experience the power of simulation for yourself.