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Friday, May 07, 2021

New software helps students to help each other

If a student is in need of counseling, don’t remain incognito. Instead, try using UF’s newest online interactive training course, Kognito.

UF’s Counseling and Wellness Center has partnered with Kognito, a behavioral health software

developer, to implement Kognito At-Risk, an interactive online simulator designed for students to identify peers in need of emotional help.

“This software is aimed at helping people learn to recognize the sign of someone in distress,” said

Meggen Sixbey, associate director for crisis and emergency services at the center. “It helps them work through how they would approach that person, how to engage them and where to refer to them after that.”

A faculty version of the program has been available for almost a year at UF. A student version of the software, which is free at the center’s website, was just introduced, Sixbey said.

Working with more than 400 colleges and universities, Kognito uses “emotionally responsive avatars” to train students in identifying psychological distress, said Glenn Albright, co-founder of Kognito.

“Over half the students who took the training reported an increase in the number of fellow students who they recognized as exhibiting signs of psychological distress,” he said.

Shari Robinson, an assistant director at the counseling and wellness center, said one reason the center looked into an approach like online software was because of increases in the amount and severity of suicide cases at UF.

“Every year we are seeing more severity in the student clients that we’re working with,” she said.

“About three years ago, UF experienced an unprecedented year with the number of student suicides, as well as faculty suicides. That’s very alarming for a university.”

Ultimately, the software is meant to better prepare UF’s faculty and students for situations in which their peers may be at risk, Robinson said.

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“We’re hoping to become a community of care and concern and impacting individuals,” she said.

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