141st APHA Annual Meeting

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Using avatar-based training to help university faculty support student veterans with issues related to post-deployment stress

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 11:42 AM - 12:00 PM

Glenn Albright, Ph.D. , Department of Psychology, Baruch College of the City University of New York, New York, NY
Returning veterans enter the classroom with valuable life and leadership experience; however, transitioning to civilian and student life offers unique challenges. To better support and retain the nation's 870,000 student veterans, higher-education institutions are increasingly training faculty to better understand this population and be more comfortable and competent referring them to appropriate support services. Dropout rates for student veterans are as high as 69% nationwide compared to 45% for non-veteran students enrolled in two-year and 25% in four-year colleges. A study by the National Center for Veterans Studies shows that nearly half of student veterans report thinking of suicide and 20% said they planned to kill themselves, significantly higher rates than for non-veteran students.

To address this urgent need, an online training simulation is being used to train faculty and staff in over 50 U.S. colleges to address these specific student veteran needs. In the simulation, faculty engage in simulated role-play conversations with emotionally responsive veteran avatars and learn effective techniques for managing classroom discussions around topics that may be sensitive to veterans, and best practices for connecting veterans exhibiting signs of psychological distress with the support services.

The presentation will include a demo of the simulation and data from a longitudinal study examining its efficacy. Results showed significant and sustained increases in users' preparedness to recognize signs of psychological distress and discuss their concern with student veterans. Measures showed increases in the number of veterans identified, approached, and referred to mental and non-mental health services.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain mental health challenges facing student veterans and how university faculty can learn to address their specific issue Demonstrate a virtual reality simulation used by over 50 colleges to train faculty how to support veterans Discuss results from a longitudinal study that examined the effectiveness of the simulation

Keywords: Mental Health, Veterans' Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Albright is the former Chair of the Department of Psychology at Baruch College and has received distinguished teaching awards at both Baruch and New York University. He is actively involved in publishing and presenting at numerous conferences addressing how game-based role-play training simulations can cost-effectively support public health initiatives designed to impact large numbers of people to bring about permanent changes in behavior in the areas of health, and behavioral health.
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
Kognito Interactive Director of Applied Research Co-founder

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 5138.0: Schools and Mental Health