At-Risk for Students

is an online, evidence-based interactive gatekeeper training simulation designed for students and student leaders. During the 30-minute simulation, students learn how to recognize when a fellow student is exhibiting signs of psychological distress and to approach and connect the student with support services on campus.

View the At-Risk for University Students Product Tour View the At-Risk for University Students Product Tour

Avatar-Based Learning

Users enter a virtual environment, assume the role of a student and engage in a challenging conversation with a student avatar who acts and responds like a real student experiencing psychological distress. Their goal in the conversations is to motivate the student to seek help.

In this simulation, students learn effective conversation tactics and motivational interviewing techniques to:

Broach the topic
of psychological distress

Discuss their concern
with the student

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.

    An estimated 1,350 suicides occur annually among college students, and 6% of college students say they have seriously considered suicide in the past year. Unfortunately, most of these students go unseen by counselors, 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 University Students shows positive results:

    1. An increase in the likelihood that a student will approach and refer an at-risk student

    2. An improvement in student confidence and the motivation to help refer at-risk students

  • Increase student retention and academic performance

    Student withdrawal remains a serious problem for colleges and universities. In fact, approximately 45% of students enrolled in two-year colleges depart during their first year, and approximately 25% of students depart from a four-year college or university before graduating. Because they often struggle academically, students in psychological distress are highly at risk of dropping out of school.

    Several studies have shown that counseling is an effective tool in increasing retention rates for students experiencing psychological distress. With the prevalence of psychological distress on today's campuses, counseling services can have an invaluable impact on retention rates and, therefore, on the institution's bottom line.

  • Reduce the stigma associated with mental illness

  • Supplement and create visibility for campus mental health initiatives

  • Develop students' communication and intervention skills


  • 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 quasi-experimental study at 35 universities and colleges with 944 students, using experimental and control groups, found that:

    1. At-Risk significantly increases students' ability to identify, approach, and refer fellow students exhibiting signs of psychological distress

    2. Students 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.

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

    Results were consistent and statistically significant at 0.01 level across demographic characteristics.

  • 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' names, email addresses, 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 on-campus 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

  • Integrated campus-specific information on policies and counseling center

    At-Risk includes a customizable "My Counseling Center" web page, where you can enter information about your school's specific referral policies, counseling center, and other campus resources. Users will be able to access/print this page while viewing the course.

Research and Achievements

  • Listed in SAMHSA’s National Registry for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP)

    At-Risk for College Students is listed as an evidence-based program in NREPP.
    Please view listing here

  • Listed in the SPRC/AFSP Best Practices Registry for suicide prevention programs

    At-Risk for University Students is listed as an evidence-based program in NREPP. Please view listing here

    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.

  • A longitudinal study at 20 colleges and universities – NEW

    A longitudinal study among 270 students at 20 institutions of higher education found that all dependent variables showed statistically significant (p<.05) increases from pre- to post-training, and that those increases remained significant at three-month follow-up point. These findings strongly suggest that At-Risk for College Students has a strong immediate and enduring impact on:

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

    (2) Changing Gatekeeper Behaviors – increasing the number of fellow students learners connect with and approach to discuss their concerns, and, if necessary, refer to support services.

    (3) Enhancing Self-Referral Intentions – increasing the likelihood that students will seek mental health services when experiencing psychological distress

    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 fellow students.

  • Key component in suicide prevention plans of leading schools

    The Departments of Health in Iowa, Vanderbilt University, and Penn State Altoona, among other institutions, have adopted At-Risk for College Students as a key component of their public health and suicide prevention initiatives. Utilizing At-Risk, these institutions are able to train large audiences with a cost-effective program that is engaging and recognized as a Best Practice Solution by SPRC.

Resources for Grant Applications Product Sheet Results from a National Study Free Trial Free Webinar
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