Project Thrive! is a youth-led youth-oriented mental healthcare program and delivery system. It integrates two essential elements:
1) a rigorously-tested evidence-based mental health intervention (the Shamiri, or “Thrive!” in Kiswahili, intervention) that includes simple, empirically supported psychological elements, uses stigma-free, culturally-appropriate content;
2) dissemination in secondary schools by youths trained as lay-providers, and integration into a three-tier mental healthcare model that brings together youth lay-providers and expert clinicians and psychiatrists.
At the base of our three-tier system, at-risk in-school youths sign up for the group-based Shamiri intervention through their schools. Thrive! Fellows are recent high-school graduates who receive Shamiri training and lead sessions of 9-to-15 youths They serve as lay-providers for a 6-month term and a monthly stipend.
At mid-level, Thrive! Associates are veteran Thrive! Fellows who have received an additional 2-week training on more advanced psychotherapeutic techniques.They supervise Thrive! Fellows, act as liaison betweenFellows and school administration, and respond to emergency needs of in-program youths
The upper tier, the Thrive! Network, consists of affiliated expert providers (social workers, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists) to whom Thrive! Fellows and Thrive! Associates refer special cases. Our Thrive! Network also acts as our bridge with the larger healthcare system.
We have tested, and refined Project Thrive! through rigorous randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) that have met the World Health Organization(WHO) and International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) gold standards. Our most recent RCT showed that it led to a 35% reduction in depression and 39% reduction in anxiety after treatment. Shamiri has also led to improvements in peer relationships and a 2.5% improvement in academic performance.
Project Thrive! goes digital. We have recently tested a digital adaptation of Project Thrive! with 103 Kenyan adolescents; our RCT found that Project Thrive! reduced depression symptoms compared to an active control-group. With the impact of COVID-19 pandemic affecting young people around the world, this is an exciting future direction for mental health.