Schools and Colleges

What if you could improve student mental health, increase retention, and reduce the achievement gap, all at a low cost?

We offer evidence-based resources that build resilience, improve well-being, and increase persistence.

"My stress levels have decreased significantly and I am able to focus much better on my work."
-2017 ReST Participant

The Problem

If you’re concerned about how to address students’ mental health needs and meet the increasing demand for services, you’re not alone. A recent report issued by The Chronicle of Higher Education identified mental health as the number one concern of top administrators, and for good reason. A large percentage of the highest risk students do not receive support services, either because they do not seek them out, or because schools and colleges are unable to meet the demand, and are forced to limit sessions or place students on waiting lists.

Mental health concerns undermine the academic mission of schools and colleges by impairing cognitive functioning, reducing achievement, and contributing to students' decisions to take time off, or leave college permanently. According to the National College Health Assessment, students consistently name stress as the single largest impediment to their academic performance, closely followed by anxiety, sleep problems, and depression.


Our resources provide cost-effective ways to build resilience, improve mental health, and increase academic performance in large numbers of students.


Tools to Build Resilience

The FREE ReST (Resiliency Skills Training) facilitator’s manual provides a detailed curriculum with step-by-step instructions on how to implement a 4-week workshop series or a DIY campus-wide online program centered on evidence-based wellness practices. Participation has been shown to significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, improve student satisfaction, and boost overall well-being.

ReST actively engages participants in improving their mental health by offering a weekly selection of wellness activities in the areas of goal-setting, emotional skills, social connection, health, meaning and purpose, and self-talk. Participants use the companion workbook Four Weeks to Wellness to select and complete the exercises that are most appealing and relevant to them. Students, staff, and faculty report that they enjoy the activities, see immediate results, and gain a toolbox of effective practices to return to in the future. Individual copies of the workbook can be found on Amazon, or you may purchase orders of 35 or more at a discounted rate. If you would like a “train the trainers” session, you may request one from Jessica Gifford 413-548-4688.

"I used the ‘Four Weeks to Wellness’ workbook in my summer Personal Health class. The students loved it and gave me great feedback about how the activities helped them have a more positive daily attitude. They enjoyed the activities and the flexibility to choose which ones would be best for them. I will be using the book again this semester and look forward to the discussions it generates in my classroom."
- Jen Quinn, Health Promotion Specialist, Worcester State University

"While the various activities were incredibly helpful in their own ways, the act of taking care of myself is a clear signal to myself that I'm worth something—which is incredibly powerful.”
- 2015 ReST Participant

2-minute video to promote growth mindset and illustrate brain plasticity

Tools to Increase Retention and Improve Mental Health

The guided journal Actualize! offers a series of 28 evidence-based reflective writing exercises designed to help students clarify what is important to them, persist through challenges, and successfully reach their potential. Completing these exercises has been shown to improve academic performance, retention, and graduation rates, build resiliency, and reduce the achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students. Each exercise takes only 10-15 minutes, and encourages incremental shifts in attitude and behavior that have a cumulative impact over time. Students benefit most from the exercises when the journal is incorporated into a class or program that includes some level of accountability and discussion. Examples of how colleges use the book include:

  • As part of a first year experience class, student success course, or summer bridge program

  • As a common reading

  • As a supplement to counseling, career counseling, or academic advising

Orders of 35 or more copies may be purchased at a discounted rate by emailing Jessica Gifford,

“I've used this book myself in my personal life, and used the individual activities with my college students one-on-one, in group discussions, and as facilitated activities within a workshop. Jessica Gifford has set up a great trajectory for values clarification and mental health promotion for people of all ages in this workbook-style resource.”
- Barbara McCall, Director of Health and Wellness Education at Middlebury College

“This course helped me organize my thoughts and figure out how I want to spend my time. I think I was way more focused in my classes than I would have been otherwise, and made progress on a project I’d been procrastinating on.”
- 2018 Student Success Initiative Participant

Speaking and Consultation

Jessica offers talks, training, and consultation on how to implement evidence-based strategies to promote positive mental health and well-being. Her expertise falls into these topic areas:

Create a Culture of Connection, Belonging and Inclusion
Social connection and belonging are central to the health and vitality of individual students and the campus community as a whole. Jessica highlights the importance of belonging, inclusion and social connection and outlines the impact they have on student mental health, academic performance, and retention. She offers specific, evidence-based approaches to strengthen social ties, build community, and increase belonging and inclusion.

Building Grit and Resiliency
Grit is a major predictor of personal and professional success, helping us persist toward important goals in the face of obstacles, while resilience helps us recover from difficulties and is vital to positive mental health. Jessica is steeped in the current research and provides concrete, easy-to-use strategies to develop grit and resilience individually, and across campus.

Innovative Approaches to Student Mental Health
At a time when many campuses are struggling to meet students' mental health needs, it is important to explore innovative, large-scale approaches. Jessica is immersed in developing, implementing, and evaluating evidence-based preventative strategies to improve mental health, and can help you determine effective strategies for your campus and walk you through implementation.