CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -As students head back to class, but not back to the classroom, their mental health is of concern, especially for kids already prone to problems. But many Ohio teachers will be better prepared after getting free training to identify and help those most at risk.
“The social isolation piece is a huge factor for those kids,” said Austin Lucas, Programming Director for the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.
He says kids are stuck at home, potentially with abusive parents, and for many of them school is an escape.
“If they have a student that normally excels, grade wise, and then they start to see that student fall back, that is something a teacher should follow up on. Whatever seems out of the ordinary for any particular student,” says Lucas.
The OSPF is offering new virtual mental health training for k-12 educators, through Kognito.
“It teaches you how to recognize when a student is experiencing either mental emotional distress or sometimes even suicidal thoughts. How do you recognize that and how do you engage with students? Kids, in more traditional settings, see the teacher more often than their families sometimes on a day to day basis. Teachers are put in that unique position to be that gatekeeper,” said Lucas.
Though the program teachers log in to Kognito and interact with a virtual student. It’s pre programmed. The simulated student starts the conversation, and teacher gives a response. The system tells you whether is was right or wrong, and why.
There are courses for elementary, middle and high school, with scenarios for three kinds of students, the straight a student, average and troubled student.
“You walk through talking to each of those students who exhibit different warning signs for suicide. A lot of times it’s not just upfront what you see. A lot of times it’s behind the scenes and then how do you detect that within those students,” Lucas explained.
Lucas says in a virtual school setting the warning signs and how to detect them can be different.
“It’s very important for teachers to be equipped to identify when their students are at risk for either suicide but not just suicide, mental distress, and certain mental conditions, because a lot of the risk factors associated with mental illness and suicide are heightened during COVID,” Lucas said.
Strongsville City Schools, which started the school year virtually, has already trained a good amount of their teachers on this.
“We wanted to make sure that teachers were equipped with the resources and knowledge to be able to respond appropriately when students reached out for help. This is a very sensitive issue for both the teachers and students and needs to be addressed immediately in the moment,” said Dan Foust, Communications Coodinator.
This training is free to all Ohio teachers now through the end of October.
It’s on demand and certification takes about an hour to complete.
There is also a peer to peer training available to high school students.
To access any these trainings, contact the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.