Virtual students helps real ones detect mental stress at LaSalle

OLNEY (WPVI) -- Helping students stay mentally healthy is a major challenge for colleges - suicide is a leading cause of death for young adults.

At LaSalle University, some virtual students are helping real ones.

"With the exception of Travis, all of them are able to handle the problems," says Serita Reels to a student.

As a resident assistant in a LaSalle dorm, Justin Cornelius is trained for most situations.

This year, that included sessions on Kognito, an online simulator.

Through encounters with 4 avatar college students, Kognito helps students like Justin recognize psychological distress, and get students to the proper help.

Reels, who runs the program, says R-A's aren't the only ones using Kognito.

"We've been working with public health students, as well as students in sociology and social work, and education," Reels notes.

Eventually, LaSalle wants training campus-wide, since anyone could be in a position to help.

"A lot of students maybe know that something is going on with their friend, but they really don't know what to say," Reels observes.

Justin learned how NOT to have conversations without being judgmental...

And without prying.

Those skills were invaluable for Justin's recent encounter with a stressed-out student.

"I was just casual like - hey, how's your day going. and he was like "good and bad." So, want to talk about it? And he was like yes, and then we had a very candid conversation," he recalls.

And he adds, "I felt all right because i did another good deed."

Students aren't being asked to solve their colleagues' problems - just get them to help.

And Serita says that's been happening more and more since Kognito arrived.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.