Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens, so now all school districts in California are required to adopt suicide prevention policies for all middle and high school students.
The Placer County Office of Education is combining gaming technology, virtual people and role play simulation to connect teachers with high risk kids and approach the topic of mental health.
It’s a technology for educators but they don’t become mental health doctors. The simulation, created by Kognito, gives teachers and staff the tools to find the help a child might need. It provides ideas and direction on how to carry out conversations about mental health and well being.
Michael Lombardo with the Placer County Office of Education says it’s designed for the person who doesn’t have that experience in mental health or social work to be able to have a conversation and connect a student with resources.
It’s a virtual classroom with virtual students, including a boy with poor attendance and drug use, a girl who’s being teased and another boy writing about suicidal thoughts.
Educators are given base skills for recognizing mental health issues and then they “talk” with fully animated virtual students.
“And then be coached through a conversation with one to four different students and be guided along that journey by a counselor,” explained Lombardo.
Educators move through the game having conversations with at-risk teens and can see how a student responds verbally and through body language.
“They can develop the skills to have a real life conversation with a student who’s faced with mental health issues,” added Lombardo.
It’s hands-on practice for what can be very difficult conversations.
Kognito is in more than 11,000 schools around the country and it provides the real life skills game in Placer County’s 16 districts.
A study of the simulation technology has already shown increases in connecting with students and referrals to mental health resources.