New virtual suicide prevention training 'Kognito' coming to Duluth schools |

New virtual suicide prevention training 'Kognito' coming to Duluth schools

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: July 15, 2020 07:36 PM

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Minnesota. Among youth, it's a leading cause of death. In a effort to change this, a new suicide prevention training program called Kognito is being offered to all Minnesota schools and is coming to Duluth Public Schools.

Kognito is a health simulation company that is offering online suicide prevention training to all Minnesota schools for free. Kognito partnered with the Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health to provide this training.

The suicide numbers in St Louis County among youth shows a need for a program like Kognito.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health Center for Health Statistics, St. Louis County has a higher number of suicide rates then other northeastern Minnesota counties. From 2014 to 2018 there have been 26 deaths by suicide for ages 5 to 24 in St. Louis County.

Duluth Public schools is said to be one of the first districts in the state to try the training under this new statewide program.

"It's really action oriented rather than information oriented. We want the learner in this case, a school staff member, to leave this hour long training with the skills and self confidence to help a student and make that really an effective and appropriate level of help," said Jennifer Spiegler, the Kognito senior vice president of strategic partnerships.

Spiegler said Kognito believes in the power of conversation to improve and save lives.

"We do that by giving them practice. We give them practice in identifying, approaching and referring a student in distress because we know that people in schools who interact with students on a daily basis are really the eyes and ears of mental health," said Spiegler.

The virtual training has a school staff member enter into a simulation where they help a virtual student who has a scenario they are struggling with. The teacher talks with the virtual student as a virtual coach guides them and gives them feedback. The training is available for elementary to high school grade levels.

"The staff member can go back through the scenario to learn how to say what they want to say to support the student and get them connected to help. Connectedness and building relationships is a protective factor in something that will support student wellness," said Stephanie Downey, the suicide prevention coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Duluth Public Schools climate coordinator Ron Lake said they plan to have all school staff train soon with Kognito. Lake said as a community, they have a responsibility to help those struggling.

"It doesn't mean that a teacher or a staff member needs to be a therapist or a mental health professional. They just need to know what to look for. They need to know how to engage somebody and ask about how they're doing," said Lake.

The virtualness of this training is timely with the current health pandemic as it opens a wide range of valuable information to school staff.

"We want to create a large community across the state of leaders that help us to support the overall health of students all across our state," said Downey.

Those in need of help are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at Text MN to 741741.

To access local mental health resources, click here.

Downey said they've heard positive feedback from those who have tried the training and said they hope to help more and more students with this training. They anticipate that come August when schools start up again, there will be more schools rolling out the training program.

"Any of those people that have contact with students will find the training beneficial to identify when a student might be struggling with psychological distress and to use motivational interviewing skills and techniques to provide them support and get them connected should they be having any suicidal thoughts or other struggles," said Downey.

To learn more about Kognito, click here.


Alejandra Palacios

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