East Carolina University is pilot testing a virtual simulation software aimed at helping faculty, staff, and students identify and address risk factors that are associated with suicide. The interactive online software called Kognito simulates a conversation with peers and allows the person using the program to choose how to respond based on issues presented.
"You get immediate feedback based on the response that you've chosen,” said Leigh Atherton, assistant professor in the Department of Addiction and Rehabilitation Studies at ECU. "Some things are more confrontational, more stigma oriented, so not wrong, but not the best way to respond to a peer. And then others are more appropriate and more engaging."
The university received a three year, $300,000 grant from the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention program at the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to purchase Kognito.
“Kognito is one peg within a larger scope of activities that we’re integrating into campus to raise our ability to respond to individuals or students that are in crisis.”.
Atherton believes the program will expand the reach of the ECU’s Center of Counseling and Student Development by educating the student body on how to handle conversations with peers who may be going through a crisis.
“Our goal going forward is to have more gatekeepers that are able to be looking for and listening for, within their friend group, what people are saying and what they’re doing, and have those conversations. The hope is that encourages individuals that may be struggling to reach out for resources,” said Atherton.
The grant purchased 30-minute modules for use with at-risk, LGBTQ, and student veteran populations. ECU plans to make Kognito available to all incoming students by fall 2020.