August 15, 2011

New York State Office of Mental Health Launches State-Wide Youth Suicide Prevention Program With Kognito’s ‘At-Risk’ Simulation

ALBANY, N.Y., Aug. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The New York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH), with New York City-based Kognito Interactive (, announced the inauguration of an innovative three-year program to train 30,000 high school educators in suicide prevention using Kognito's At-Risk online training simulation. All of the State's 1231 public high schools and their private counterparts are eligible to apply for the program, which goes live today. Schools interested in joining the program can go to and follow the registration link.

"Depression and other mental illnesses begin in the teen years. Early treatment can have a real impact on disease progression," said Melanie Puorto, Director of NYSOMH's Suicide Prevention Initiative. The statistics in New York State are compelling, she noted. According to 2009 data (the most recent available) from a CDC survey of the State's youth between the ages of 14 and 19:

  • 22.6 percent reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks in the previous 12 months
  • 18.2 percent had been bullied on school property
  • 13.3 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide
  • 7.4 percent of youth had attempted suicide one or more times
"Kognito's training enhances our agency's youth suicide prevention efforts by providing educators with a virtual practice environment where they engage in role-play conversation with student avatars that exhibit signs of depression, substance abuse, bullying and thoughts of suicide. In this process, they learn to identify students at-risk, how to approach them to discuss their concern, and how to refer them to support services," Puorto said.

"At-Risk for High School Educators is the first online training available to provide realistic and risk-free role-play exercises in identifying, speaking with, and referring troubled youth," said Ron Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Kognito. "Developed with input from some of the country's leading authorities on youth suicide prevention and hundreds of educators, the resulting training can help connect students to treatment early on -- critical to improving mental health outcomes and to mitigating the kinds of tragedies that can scar entire communities."

Launched in 2010, At-Risk for High School Educators is listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. An earlier version, At-Risk for University Faculty, was the first training simulation to be added to this prestigious national registry. A recent Kognito study ( of more than 300 teachers in 40 states showed that those who completed the At-Risk training were significantly more likely to identify and talk to high-school students exhibiting signs of psychological distress and refer them for professional help. Demos and trailers of the At-Risk trainings are available online at

About New York State Office of Mental Health: New York State has a large, multi-faceted mental health system that serves more than 500,000 individuals each year. The Office of Mental Health (OMH) operates psychiatric centers across the State, and also regulates, certifies and oversees more than 2,500 programs, which are operated by local governments and nonprofit agencies. These programs include various inpatient and outpatient programs, emergency, community support, residential and family care programs. For more information, visit:

About Kognito: Kognito Interactive, headquartered in New York City, creates online role-playing simulations where users develop interpersonal skills and learn to effectively manage challenging conversations in the areas of health and behavioral health. Simulations are built using Kognito's proprietary Human Interaction Simulation Platform(TM), which is based on research in social cognition, neuroscience, and motivational interviewing. In these simulations, learners enter virtual environments, engage in conversations with emotionally responsive avatars, and receive personalized feedback. Kognito's flagship product line is At-Risk, which is successfully being used by more than 200 academic institutions, hospitals, states and federal agencies to train teachers, students, families of veterans, and health providers to recognize and refer those exhibiting signs of psychological distress and PTSD. For more information, visit

For media inquiries contact:

Melanie Puorto, Director of Suicide Prevention Initiatives
[email protected]

Christina Pagano
[email protected]
212-213-2851 or 646-382-3871(cell)

SOURCE Kognito Interactive