Schools and Colleges

Thrive uses creative online programs to engage students in actively improving their mental health and well-being.

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

If you’re concerned about how to address the rising mental health needs of your students, 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 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 issues also undermine the academic mission of schools and colleges, by impairing cognitive functioning, undermining achievement, and contributing to students' decisions to take time off, or leave 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 programs offer a cost-effective method to reach large numbers of students at a time, and help them develop resiliency skills before they start to struggle. We use evidence-based practices that protect against anxiety and depression, improve academic performance, and help students persist through challenges.

Resiliency Skills Training (ReST)

ReST is a 4-week online program that engages students in exercises that build resiliency, reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and improve academic performance. 

ReST participants receive a weekly email with a menu of activities that fall into six categories: setting goals, building emotional skills, strengthening social connections, improving health, connecting to a sense of meaning and purpose, and practicing positive self-talk. Students select the activities that are most appealing to them, then schedule and complete the activities on their own or in teams. Engaging in the ReST program for as little as 30 minutes per week has resulted in significant improvement in symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, stronger social connections, and improved academic performance. Students report that they enjoy the activities, see immediate results, and learn concrete tools that they will continue to use in the future. ReST may be used as part of a class, or as a campus-wide wellness program for students, staff and faculty. The Four Weeks to Wellness workbook may be used in conjunction with the online program to increase engagement. 

"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

The Student Success Initiative (SSI)

SSI is a 13-week online course designed to help students develop the skills they need to successfully transition to college.

SSI's weekly modules each contain brief educational content, followed by a 15-minute reflective writing exercise. These evidence-based exercises help students clarify future goals, connect to a sense of purpose, prioritize how they use their time, and persist through challenges. Completing these writing assignments has been shown to:

  • Improve academic performance and graduation rates
  • Help disadvantaged students close the achievement gap
  • Build resiliency
  • Reduce depression and anxiety

People are often skeptical that a short online course could improve outcomes in any significant way. SSI works by focusing on two crucial areas: 1) helping students let go of limiting beliefs and cultivate mindsets that support success, and 2) developing key skills, such as goal-setting and follow-through. The structure of the course provides scaffolding for students to make small shifts in attitude and behavior that have a cumulative impact over time.

To learn more about implementing SSI, or about becoming a research partner, contact Jessica Gifford,, 413-548-4688.

This video, shown in the first session of SSI, illustrates brain plasticity and normalizes challenges.

Speaking Topics

Jessica offers talks and trainings in the following areas:

Building Grit and Resiliency
Grit helps us persist in the face of obstacles and is a significant predictor of personal and professional success, while resilience helps us recover from difficulties and is vital to positive mental health. This talk gives an overview of the current research, and offers concrete strategies to develop grit and resiliency skills and promote thriving.

Creating a Culture of Belonging
The experience of belonging is a crucial component of individual and community resilience. This talk provides an overview of the impact that belonging has on academic performance, retention, and mental health. The session explores ways to match efforts to create greater diversity on campus with efforts to create an environment in which students, staff and faculty of all identities and backgrounds feel safe, supported, and valued--that they belong. The session provides a model for understanding belonging, discusses factors that undermine or contribute to belonging, and offers specific strategies to increase belonging.

Innovative Approaches to Student Mental Health: exploring large-scale and environmental strategies to improve outcomes
At a time when many campuses struggle to meet students' rising mental health needs, this talk explores innovative and preventative approaches to improving student mental health. The talk will give an overview of several evidence-based strategies that have the capacity to impact large numbers of students, and will discuss how to implement these approaches on your campus. 

1. Anderson, M., & Cardoza, K. (2016, August 31). Mental Health In Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions Of Students. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from

2.  The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2017, from,5061.1

3. The Student-Centered University: Pressures And Challenges Faced By College Presidents And Student Affairs Leaders. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from

4. Hysenbegasi A, Hass S, Rowland C. The impact of depression on the academic productivity of university students. The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics 2005; 8: 145-151.

5. Kizilbasha AH, Vanderploega RD, Curtiss G. The effects of depression and anxiety on memory performance. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 2002; 17(1): 57-67.

6. Eisenberg D, Golberstein E, Hunt J. Mental health and academic success in college. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy 2009; 9(1): article 40.

7. The American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment, spring 2016.