Suicide prevention program at UI offers realistic scenarios for faculty, staff, and students

Kognito, a suicide prevention training program used by the UI, has recently updated its training modules for faculty, staff, and students. The program, which has been widely used at the UI since 2019, has serviced almost 20,000 UI participants in the past three years.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Director of higher education programming Dr. Barry Schreier poses for a portrait on the steps outside of the Lindquist Center on Sept. 19, 2022.

Isabelle Foland, News Reporter

 New updates to the University of Iowa’s suicide prevention training program provides different paths for faculty, staff, and students to see realistic scenarios. 

Kognito, a mandatory training program for UI students, received positive feedback from UI students, faculty, and staff since its campus-wide launch in 2019. 

Barry Schreier, a UI director of higher education programming at the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, said Kognito expanded the faculty and staff modules. 

“There used to be a single staff and faculty module,” Schreier said. “Now, when you go into it, it says, ‘Are you staff, or are you faculty?’ and depending on what it is, you then head down different roads.” 

Schreier added the scenarios in the faculty and staff modules have been updated to be more realistic and inclusive. 

“[Kognito has] done a lot of making it even more real-world, much more representation, much more representative of who the students are,” Schreier said. “I think their scenarios are just much more complex, and the guidance has gotten even better.” 

UI President Barbara Wilson shared a video with UI students and staff on Sept. 8 promoting the UI’s partnership with Kognito for National Suicide Prevention month in September. 

On Kognito’s website, the program defines itself as a “provider of practice-based digital learning experiences which provides strategies to improve mental health and well-being across schools, campuses, and communities.” 

The website also states the training takes place in different real-world simulations that allow users to have simulated conversations regarding aspects of mental health such as suicide prevention, substance abuse, violence prevention, and more. 

RELATED: UI launches suicide prevention program to entire campus after positive feedback from first-years

Lauren Hall, Kognito Higher Education Client Success Manager, said the UI’s first contract with Kognito was in 2016, but the partnership really kicked off in 2019. 

Hall said the UI currently has two active contracts with Kognito: one with student-oriented learning modules and one with faculty and staff-oriented learning modules. 

Student modules were also recently updated, Schreier said, and now include messaging on where students can find mental health and counseling services on campus. The new modules also help students set up a well-being and self-care plan. 

Kognito recorded over 20,000 program uses at the UI since 2019. 

Schreier added out of the hundreds of universities that utilize Kognito’s services, the UI is the second biggest user of Kognito in the U.S. 

Suzette Blanchard, Success at Iowa assistant director of orientation services and instructor, said she personally saw positive feedback from students who completed Success at Iowa, a course that houses Kognito that all new UI students must complete. 

“I do get a lot of feedback from students that seems to be referring to Kognito,” Blanchard said. “Comments like, ‘An important concept that I learned was how to better my own mental health and help others and learn how to help people who may not be doing well mentally,’ things like that.” 

Blanchard also took the course herself and said she gained some valuable knowledge as well. 

“I actually felt like the conversational skills and the training for how to support students who’re in distress could actually be applied to a lot of different situations,” Blanchard said. “I thought it was really helpful.” 

UI Faculty Senate President Ana Rodriguez- Rodriguez wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that she has spoken with the senators about the Kognito program as they plan the Senate’s agendas for future meetings. 

“We have decided to advertise the program among senators, and we will also encourage them to take it and spread the relevance of this program among all faculty,” she wrote. 

Rodriguez-Rodriguez wrote that she has taken the program and found it extremely helpful and relevant. 

“It provides valuable information about how to handle mental health issues in our interactions with students, and it offers very useful guidance,” she wrote. “Sometimes it is hard for faculty to know what is the best possible response when students discuss mental health with us, and this program does a great job making us feel more prepared and to be more effective as we try to help our students with this very important issue.”