News Release

SCC Launches Staff and Faculty Training to Help Identify Students at Risk for Psychological Distress and Suicide

​​(Orange)— According to the American College Health Association (ACHA) the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students. According to an ACHA study in 2002, 1 in 12 college students has actually made a suicide plan at some point and 1.5 out of 100 have actually attempted it.

To support student mental health and maintain a healthy environment on campus, Santiago Canyon College (SCC) has launched an online training initiative to significantly increase the number of faculty, staff and administrators who are trained to identify and talk to students exhibiting signs of psychological distress. Once the signs are recognized, efforts will be made to motivate the at-risk students to seek appropriate help. Online training is also available for students.

“Warning signs of suicide risk include traumatic or stressful life events, a prior suicide attempt, a sense of isolation or lack of support, impulsivity issues, substance abuse, poor coping skills, and access to a suicide method,” said Melissa Campitelli-Smith, Psy.D., SCC psychologist. “Students may exhibit indications of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.”

Through the use of the At-Risk University and College modules, providing online role-playing training simulations, SCC faculty, staff, administrators, and students have the opportunity to improve their at-risk identification skills in a neutral environment. The online training tool uses cutting-edge educational gaming technology developed by an award-winning learning technology company, Kognito. It uses online role-playing simulations with emotionally responsive avatars to provide a realistic practice environment to train individuals to identify at-risk students and refer them to an appropriate resource for the support they need.

Kognito’s At-Risk University and College training modules have been adopted in more than 400 U.S. universities and colleges and have been found to be a highly effective solution for training basic suicide intervention skills. A survey conducted in 72 universities and colleges with 1,450 faculty members to assess the effectiveness of At-Risk University and College found the following:

    • More than 80 percent reported increased awareness that identifying and referring at-risk students is part of their job role.
    • Eighty-seven percent reported they were better prepared to identify, approach, and refer students exhibiting signs of psychological distress.
    • Ninety-seven of respondents said the use of virtual role-play exercises was an effective instructional tool.

The Kognito At-Risk program is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit

Prop. 63 also funded a $211,435 mental health grant to boost the SCC’s mental health services to students. The grant initiatives will work to raise students’ awareness of mental health issues and needs, reduce stress among high-risk populations, prepare college staff to provide effective mental health support, and integrate suicide prevention into safety and security measures and into administrative structures. The college will use the funds over the next two years. In March 2013, the ACHA-National College Health Assessment study was conducted at SCC to gather health information about student mental health needs.

On August 20-21, SCC will offer a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid called, ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). The workshop is offered to faculty, staff, and administrators through the CalMHSA grant. For more information, contact the Student Mental Health Program at (714) 628-4773 or visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Melissa Campitelli-Smith, SCC psychologist, and the CEO of Kognito, Ron Goldman are available for interviews.

About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College is a public community college of Rancho Santiago Community College District, serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin and Villa Park. The college provides education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.

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Contact: Judy Iannaccone

Phone: (714) 480-7503