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

In December 2021, the US Surgeon General issued a rare Advisory to highlight the urgent need of addressing youth mental health. The Advisory examines mental health trends, how the pandemic has amplified existing concerns, and outlines specific steps for institutions including schools and districts. We’ve recapped the Advisory, its call to action for PK-12 educators, as well as how Kognito’s evidence-based simulations support these 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.

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

The Advisory calls on educators to take action and includes several pages of recommendations specifically focused on educators, school staff, and school districts.

The recommendations include:

  • Creating positive, safe, and affirming school environments with efforts such as anti-bullying policies, bystander interventions, mental health education.
  • Expanding social and emotional learning programs and other evidence-based approaches that promote healthy development.
  • Learning how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes. Take appropriate action when needed.
  • Providing a continuum of supports to meet student mental health needs, including evidence-based prevention practices and trauma-informed mental health care.
  • Expanding the school-based mental health workforce, such as school counselors and social workers.
  • Supporting the mental health of all school personnel.
  • Promoting enrolling and retaining eligible children in Medicaid, CHIP, or a Marketplace plan, so that children have health coverage that includes behavioral health services.
  • Protecting 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).

The experiences students encounter at school have a major impact on their mental health. Even when mental health challenges are influenced 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 address student mental health using practice-based learning in a safe environment. Through role-play with virtual humans, educators and students can learn how to recognize warning signs, reach out to at-risk students, and connect them to the appropriate resources when needed.

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

  • Learn how to recognize signs of change 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.

We’re proud to offer a comprehensive suite of products that support schools and districts in their efforts to address the current youth mental health crisis.

Introducing our new Mental Health & Well-being Suite

The Mental Health & Well-being Suite offers school districts an easy to implement, accessible, and scalable community approach to creating a safe learning environment for students, teachers, and staff.  The Suite includes six total interactive programs, two each for the integral groups within a child’s formative community: educator, fellow student, and parents and caregivers. By adopting this Suite, districts are building greater awareness, knowledge, and skills surrounding emotional and mental wellness. Topics include emotional & mental wellness, Trauma-Informed practices, and substance use prevention.

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.

The Need is Now

As stated in the US Surgeon General Advisory, the need is urgent, and we know that much has been asked already of educators during the past two years of the pandemic. Each scenario can be completed in as little as 30 minutes and is available both online and on-demand. Kognito’s dedicated client success team will get you up and running quickly, helping you plan and execute both a strategic implementation and ongoing, successful usage.

Take the Next Step

If you’re a school administrator interested in learning more about how Kognito’s evidence-based solutions can create a safe and caring environment, contact us at to learn more or request a personalize product demo.

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