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K-State Today

September 6, 2011

Online, interactive faculty training helps identify signs of distress in students

By Dorinda J. Lambert, Ph.D.

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, Kansas State University is offering an innovative program to train faculty in student suicide prevention. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-age young people. A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in the Journal of Affective Disorders found 12 percent of students surveyed had considered suicide at least once, and 24.5 percent of that group had thought about it repeatedly.

By using this unique online training simulation: At-Risk for University Faculty, Kansas State faculty and staff will learn and practice the skills of identifying and addressing students who are experiencing psychological distress — including anxiety, depression, victimization and thoughts of suicide. At-Risk was developed in 2009 by award-winning interactive learning company Kognito Interactive and is currently in use on more than 100 campuses throughout the country.

K-State professors and instructors are encouraged to access the program here and follow the instructions. A short demo of the program can be viewed here.

The SafeZone Program initially brought the program to campus. More than 400 faculty, staff, and students have since been trained using the At-Risk program in making K-State a safer and healthier community. Now, through the combined efforts of the K-State counseling sServices, the SafeZone Program, and the office of student life, this online program is being offered to more faculty.

“This free resource will help strengthen and extend the good, caring connections that faculty already have with students," said Dorinda Lambert, director of counseling services. "By employing the latest education gaming technology in a one-hour online simulation, faculty engage in virtual role-play with student avatars showing signs of depression, substance abuse, bullying and thoughts of suicide. At the end of this training, they will have acquired both the ability to act as soon as they have a concern about a student, and the comfort and skill to help the student seek help.”

If you have questions about this training, please contact Lambert at 532-6927 or via email.

At-Risk for University Faculty was the first simulation training to be listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. A recent Kognito study of 420 faculty at 68 universities showed:

  • At-Risk increases and sustains over time faculty’s knowledge and skill with regard to identifying, approaching and referring at-risk students.
  • At-Risk increases the likelihood that faculty will approach and refer at-risk students.
  • 96 percent of faculty said they would recommend the course to their colleagues.