At-Risk for High School Educators

is a one hour online, interactive gatekeeper training simulation designed to prepare high school teachers and staff to 1) recognize the common indicators of psychological distress and 2) approach an at-risk student for referral to the appropriate school support service.

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At-Risk has been adopted by:

  • Texas – for 40,000 teachers.
    Learn More >>

  • New York State – to train 30,000 teachers. Learn More >>

  • Ohio – to train all public high school teachers statewide. Announcement Pending.

  • Arizona – to train teachers in 27 high risk schools.

Avatar-Based Learning

Users assume the role of an educator and engage in conversations with three emotionally responsive student avatars that exhibit signs of psychological distress. These avatars “react” to users' decisions, effectively replicating real-life interactions.

Through this virtual role-play, users adopt effective conversational tactics and motivational interviewing techniques to effectively:

Broach the topic
of psychological distress

Motivate the student
to seek help

Avoid common pitfalls
such as attempting to diagnose the
problem or giving unwarranted advice

Institutional Benefits

  • Promote early intervention

    Students experiencing psychological distress tend to exhibit behaviors that can be detected by fellow members of their academic community.

    According to a recent CDC study, during the previous 12 months, 14.5% of high school students had seriously considered suicide and 6.9% had attempted suicide one or more times. Unfortunately, most of these students go unseen by clinicians, leaving them, and others, at risk.

    Gatekeeper training - teaching people within a community to recognize a person at risk - has been shown to be a valuable strategy in increasing early intervention efforts.

    A national study to assess At-Risk for High School Educators shows positive results:

    1. An increase in recognition by educators that acting as gatekeepers is part of their role

    2. An improvement in educator confidence and the motivation to identify and approach at-risk students

  • Increase student retention and academic performance

    Over half of lifetime mental illness begins in the teen years, while first symptoms precede a disorder by two-to-four years. Studies among adolescents and youth have linked treatment for depression with increased academic achievement and the lack of treatment with low educational attainment (see, for example, Asarnow, et al. "Depression and Role Impairment Among Adolescents in Primary Care Clinics" in Journal of Adolescent Health 37 (2005) 477-483).

    While some schools successfully employ universal screening for depression, teachers and other staff who interact daily with students are in a position to notice changes of behavior over time.

  • Reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
  • Cost effective and flexible compared to face-to-face training


  • Engaging, skill-based curriculum

    Kognito is an award-winning developer of online role-playing simulations and games where users build interpersonal skills to effectively manage challenging conversations in the areas of health and behavioral health.

    At-Risk is built using Kognito's proprietary Human Interaction Game Engine™, which is based on research in social cognition, neuroscience, and motivational interviewing. The platform enables Kognito to author and deliver virtual practice environments where learners engage in challenging conversations with emotionally responsive avatars that act and respond like real humans thereby replicating real-life interactions. As a result, learners become more confident, motivated, and capable of managing similar conversations in real life.

    A national study across 40 states, with 327 high school teachers, using an experimental and control group, found that:

    1. At-Risk significantly increases teachers' ability to identify, approach and refer students exhibiting signs of psychological distress, including depression and suicidal ideation.

    2. Teachers who complete At-Risk are more confident in their ability to help a suicidal student and are significantly more likely to intervene when faced with such a student.

  • Online, 24/7 accessibility
  • Built-in program assessment and tracking tools

    Assessment Tools

    The course includes optional pre, post, and follow-up surveys that gather feedback from users and provide insights into changes in their knowledge, skills, and behavior. These results are summarized into reports which can be shared with stakeholders and granting agencies.

    Reports include the following data about learners:

    1. Changes in the number of students identified, approached and referred

    2. Changes in perception of, and motivation toward, becoming a gatekeeper

    3. Changes in skills, knowledge and confidence to identify, approach and refer students in distress

    Usage Tracking Tools

    The course tracks users' name, email, progress through the course, and completion rates. Clients have access to a password-protected account where they can view and download these reports.

  • Materials for program promotion

    To promote At-Risk to potential learners, clients are provided with the following materials at no additional cost:

    1. Suggested Email Language to send to potential end-users

    2. 8.5" x 11" color flyer about the course that can be printed and handed out to learners

    3. PowerPoint presentation about the training that can be used to solicit the support of key stakeholders and motivate learners to participate

    4. Animated and narrated trailers about the course to solicit the help of stakeholders and motivate learners to participate

    5. Language to post on your university's website about the course

    6. Dedicated Kognito account manager to support and assist you in planning your campus roll-out

Efficacy and Recognition

  • A longitudinal study among 82 schools in five states – NEW

    A longitudinal study among 216 high school teachers and personnel in 82 schools in five states found that all dependent variables showed statistically significant (p<.05) increases from pre- to post-training, and that those increases remained significant at the three-month follow-up point. These findings strongly suggest that At-Risk for High School Educators has an immediate and strong enduring impact on:

      (1) Building Gatekeeper Skills - identifying, approaching, and referring students exhibiting signs of psychological distress.

      (2) Changing Gatekeeper Behaviors - increasing the number of students that learners connect with to discuss their concerns, and, if necessary, refer to support services; increasing the number of conversations learners have with other school personnel regarding their concerns about such students.

    Finally, the study showed that participants found the training to be easy to use, engaging, realistic, and helpful to them in getting timely help to students.

  • National study of At-Risk for High School Educators across 40 states

    Between September and December 2010, Kognito conducted an empirical study among 327 high school teachers in 40 states to assess the efficacy of At-Risk for High School Educators. The results of the study strongly suggest that:

    Changes in Knowledge and Skill:

    1. At-Risk significantly increases teachers' ability to identify, approach and refer students exhibiting signs of psychological distress, including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation

    2. Teachers who complete At-Risk are more confident in their ability to help a suicidal student, and are significantly more likely to intervene when faced with such a student

    Effectiveness of Instructional Approach:

    1. At-Risk is a highly engaging learning experience (based on course ratings and the percentage of teachers who would recommend it to their colleagues)

    2. At-Risk provides a realistic environment for practicing interacting with at-risk students

    Changes in Perception and Motivation:

    1. At-Risk significantly increases the likelihood that teachers will intervene when faced with a student at-risk for psychological distress and suicide. Over 97% of participants who received the training indicated that they were likely or very likely to approach such a student


  • Under review for inclusion in SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Interventions
  • Listed in the SPRC/AFSP Best Practices Registry for suicide prevention programs

    At-Risk for High School Educators is listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention.

    At-Risk is the first simulation-based training program to be included in this prestigious national registry. Resources are added to the registry after review by a team of independent suicide prevention experts.

  • Texas Makes Course Available to Educators for Free, CEUs

    With funding from the Texas Department of State Health Services, over 100,000 public high school educators are now eligible to take At-Risk for High School Educators at no cost. Read news release.

    Read news story in Austin American Statesman.

    The training is accessible to Texas educators through a link on the Web site of Mental Health America of Texas, which is leading dissemination of the training across the state. The MHA of Texas website also has links to materials that Texans can use to promote the course locally.

    After completing the course, Texas educators can receive Continuing Education Units through the Texas Education Agency.

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