SCSD using new virtual technology to teach staff about mental health awareness

New mental health training program

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -This school year, Sarasota County School District introduced a new way to teach staff how to deal with mental health issues.

The new tool the district is using is called Kognito. The program puts staff members in a virtual situation with a student or a student’s parent and teaches the staff member how to react.

The program will start off by setting the scene with background information. An example of that would be that a student has been withdrawn and angry. The staff member then talks to the student through a drop down menu and the student will talk back. But, if the staff member doesn’t respond how they should, it lets them know why their response was wrong and they then have to go back to fix it.

Kognito offers elementary, middle, and high school settings. The school district has received positive feedback from people who have completed the training, saying they like being able to practice what to do in a hard situation before it happens.

“It’s sometimes challenging or daunting for someone to have someone approach you and say hey, I’m really having a crisis here, and then how do you respond. Well this gives you a real safe way to know how to do that and provide you feedback with how well you did," said FDLRS Suncoast Project Manager, Tracey Cardenas.

All staff members in the district are required to go through mental health training.

“Often times when students are seeking out someone, it may not be who you expect. It could be a cafeteria worker or it could be even their bus driver. It’s the first person they see at the beginning of the day and the last person they say goodbye to. Or it could be a paraprofessional in the classroom. Or you know anyone, so it’s really important that we all are having those conversations,” Cardenas said.

So far, 94% of Sarasota County School District’s staff has gone through the Kognito training.

Cardenas said this year the district is focusing on social and emotional learning. Once staff has completed Kognito training they will go through Youth Mental Health First Aid training. YMHFA training will teach staff how to deal with a student when they see an issue arise with their mental health.

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