Program identifying at-risk behaviors free to Maryland schools

Kognito, a virtual simulation designed to help students in distress, is available free of charge in Maryland institutions of higher education until 2019. The subscription is made available through the support of the Maryland Institute of Health and Mental Hygiene.

This program is designed for students, faculty and others who wish to help those in emotional or psychological distress, training them to identify potential signs of problems in others while connecting them to appropriate resources. With the use of a virtual coach, students practice managing conversations with those they believe could benefit from more support than they are currently receiving. Often these conversations are difficult to initiate, and may take a lot of courage. Knowing how to bring up a sensitive topic appropriately and handle it in the correct manner is vital for ensuring that the situation is properly dealt with.

The program’s website will prompt the user to create an account, in which the user will choose a “Training POV” that fits their situation (higher education student, teacher, high schooler, etc.). After the user completes the profile, he or she can choose a course from a list of relevant courses. The courses designed for college students are “At-Risk for College Students,” “Veterans on Campus” and “LGBTQ on Campus for Students.”

“At Risk for College Students” allows the user to look at different situations and identify the student displaying the most at risk behaviors. The user is then guided through the process of bringing up these behaviors in a productive manner and introducing the student to resources on campus that may provide help and support. At the end of the simulation, a link is given which takes the students to resources available within their own campus. The entire course takes an estimated time of 34 minutes.

“LGBTQ on Campus for Students” educates the user about the LGBTQ experience, and teaches the user how to be respectful and openminded about those with an identity other than heterosexual or cisgender. It goes over basic information, such as the meaning of the acronym LGBTQ, and more in-depth information such as common stereotypes that students experience on a regular basis. The program highlights the experience of those who are transgender or gender nonconforming, and the challenges of finding gender neutral restrooms and feeling safe on campus. According to the site, “LGBQ students are twice as likely to be the target of offensive comments” and “over a third of trans students face harassment.”

The ”Veterans on Campus: Peer to Peer” program allows people to assist their fellow veterans in adjusting to college and civilian life. Having been in military service, seen or been involved in combat is a challenging experience and one that is often difficult to talk about. In addition, many students have never engaged in combat situations and may not be able to relate. Relating to fellow veterans and helping them transition back into civilian life is an important skill in adjusting from military service to college.

These programs have been proven to be effective. Kognito is listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), and is used throughout institutions across the country.