Q&A: What is Thrive?

Recently, Grant Halliburton Foundation developed a new program—we’re calling it Thrive. This new curriculum under our Education and Outreach umbrella is a comprehensive strategy for mental, social, and emotional health in schools.

The Thrive curriculum is aimed at educating students, teachers, and parents on teen brain health and mental wellness, coupled with trainings to help school staff understand and identify the biggest stressors for students.

You may be asking: Why is this new focus on mental health needed? Let’s dig deeper.

What is Thrive?

Thrive is intended to infuse mental health awareness and education into the everyday school environment. It incorporates evidence-based best practices from several mental health partners, forming integrated layers of programs targeted to three critical audiences: students, faculty/staff, and parents. Programs are implemented through classroom education, extracurricular activities, peer-based programs, awareness campaigns, teacher/adult training, and speaker series and seminars.

Why do schools need a program like Thrive?

Students face many challenges at different developmental stages. They’re bombarded with crises they are emotionally ill-equipped to handle, and many tend to retreat to isolation as a result of declining personal connections. In today’s digital world, students are constantly stimulated and hyperconnected. In addition, schools have created a competitive culture and narrower definitions of success. This environment, coupled with the everyday stress of being a teenager, often leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness.

Many schools observe Wellness Week, Red Ribbon Week, Suicide Prevention Month and other initiatives. And that’s good. But even though we as a society are talking more openly about mental health, the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide continue to rise.

Talking about mental health is crucial to raising awareness and eliminating stigma. Yet, that is only one small part of a larger picture. To really make a difference, we have to change the culture within the schools, and that calls for a holistic strategy that elevates the commitment to mental, social, and emotional health in local educational environments.

Thrive Strategy

Thrive has five key pillars: Awareness, Student Education, Adult Training, Peer to Peer, and Research. Focusing on each pillar provides a wraparound approach that allows students to feel safe in sharing and hopefully have an improved quality of life. Long-term, we hope to see students cope with life stressors in healthier ways, grow in empathy, and model positive behaviors for younger students.

Additionally, In a school where the overall health and well-being of students is improved, the school counselors have greater capacity to support students with problems related to trauma, regulation of emotions, or mental health conditions.

What outcomes/benefits do you expect to see in a school where Thrive is implemented?

We hope students will become more mindful, engaged and self-aware. It’s been proven that children who are mentally and emotionally healthy become better students. They’re more confident in who they are and more competent in their abilities.

Does this mean Grant Halliburton Foundation won’t continue making mental health and suicide prevention presentations in schools?

Grant Halliburton Foundation will still offer its full array of classroom-by-classroom presentations for students. We view education as a key component of the overall mission of the Foundation.

We truly believe that knowing the warning signs for suicide can save lives. Students are on the frontlines every day; they see their friends struggling, and they need to know what to do when someone is in psychological distress or suicidal crisis.

Who are the Thrive partners and why are these partnerships important to the program?

Our initial partner on this project was Parish Episcopal School. Together we’re building a strategy called CenterED, which has become the forerunner for Thrive. This partnership has enabled us to develop a comprehensive strategy that we can build on, expand, and eventually take to larger districts.

We know that no single entity can solve these challenges alone. Collaboration is key to changing the culture in schools. We have established key partnerships with UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Okay to Say, and an evidence- based peer-to-peer support program called Hope Squad.

Interested in making mental health a community-wide initiative? Let’s talk about how your school district can make a lasting impact on the mental, social, and emotional health of students. To learn more, visit out Thrive page.

–Sierra Sanchez, Director of Outreach and Education