Knowing what to say and do with a distressed student can be difficult. That’s where the new Kognito program comes in.

Those who work with students are often presented with challenges not explicitly included in their job descriptions. Educators, advisers, residence hall staff, and others encounter students in crisis. Some of these students have recently experienced trauma, and may be bearing the burden alone. Others are shouldering major depression, anxiety attacks, intrusive thoughts, and other psychological distress.

While MSU has a robust community dedicated to student health and well-being, it falls to Spartans outside that community to triage students in crisis every day.  Knowing what to say and do with a distressed student can be difficult. That’s where the new Kognito program comes in.

Kognito is a virtual training platform designed to provide student-facing employees with a socioemotional toolkit for recognizing and addressing students experiencing distress. The program consists of roleplaying scenarios where users work their way through simulated conversations with students.

More than 350 universities and colleges are using Kognito. Research shows those who use Kognito demonstrate statistically significant increases in mental health skills at 3, 6, and 12-month follow-up points, as well as statistically significant increases in the number of students that educators connect with and, if necessary, refer to support. This evidence-based approach is one reason the program is receiving funding from Provost Terera K. Woodruff, Ph.D.

Kognito is not a replacement for MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) or Employee Assistance Program (EAP), but a supplement, according to Dr. Sheila Marquardt, Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, who is coordinating the adoption of Kognito at MSU. 

“The JED Campus Committee for Suicide Prevention would have liked to grow our own program,” says Marquardt. “However, given the current climate with COVID, there are additional demands on the mental health units to serve clients and support the MSU community. Thus, they strongly encouraged the committee to find a resource that requires less human resource investment from the mental health units.”

In fact, CAPS, EAP, and leaders in campus mental health have been strongly advocating for Kognito or a similar program, as it has become more difficult to keep up with the requests for training on campus.

“They recommended a streamlined, uniform program that prepares Spartans to better identify a student or colleague in mental health distress, to approach, and to refer them to appropriate resources,” says Marquardt. “Kognito will do just that.”

If you would like to know more about the Kognito rollout at MSU, please contact Dr. Sheila Marquardt at: marqua36@msu.edu