A character strength intervention for mental health and wellbeing

Shamiri teaches youths about to develop a growth mindset, to practice gratitude, and to set personal goals through value-aligned actions

we have built and are scaling the future of youth mental health

Character strengths can improve wellbeing

Our team has developed an effective mental health treatment (called "Shamiri"). The Shamiri intervention is delivered cost-effectively through a youth-led youth-oriented caregiving model that we call Project Thrive! Through Project Thrive!, we are building a future where mental health problems do no limit the potential of our youth

What is the Shamiri intervention?

Building on years of research on character strength interventions, the Shamiri intervention combines into one protocol three brief and simple character-strength-focused elements that have been shown to have beneficial effects on health and developmental outcomes amongst youths:

  • Growth-mindset: Youths learn that personal characteristics are malleable and challenge the idea that they cannot change these characteristics. They develop strategies for growth and understand how to apply effort in the face of adversity.
  • Gratitude: Youths learn to notice and appreciate the good things that happen to them. Because grateful people exhibit positive states and outcomes, youths improve their wellbeing and life - satisfaction.
  • Value affirmations: Youths develop a sense of purpose and mobilize internal resources as they reestablish an awareness of personal worth and integrity through reflecting on self-defining values.
project thrive!
project thrive!

What makes the Shamiri intervention different?

  • Because of its focus on character-strengths, we use lay-providers (Thrive! Fellows) aged 19-to-22 to deliver Shamiri
  • It takes only 4 one-hour sessions (significantly shorter than traditional psychotherapy) to deliver Shamiri
  • The intervention strategies in Shamiri are based on years of clinical, educational and social psychological research. They target youths core beliefs about themselves and their world and cause an upward spiral of positive beliefs, thoughts and behavior
  • 4 gold-standard randomized controlled trials (published in peer-reviewed journals) show that the Shamiri intervention works

Growth-mindset: We can grow and improve with intentional effort and strategies (especially in the face of challenges) 

Gratitude: We can improve our wellbeing by noticing and appreciating the good things in our lives 

Value affirmation: We can set personal goals and take values-aligned actions through reflecting on our core values 

Some evidence that the Shamiri intervention works

2018 pilot clinical trial with 51 youths in Kibera

  • Youths were randomized to the 4-week Shamiri intervention or to a study-skills control of equal duration and dosage
  • Shamiri produced greater reductions in adolescent depression symptoms (Cohen d=.32) and anxiety symptoms (Cohen d=.54) from baseline to 4-week follow-up
  • Shamiri also produced greater improvements in academic performance (Cohen d=.32) and in social support from friends (Cohen d=.71)

This was the first report that a brief, lay-provider delivered, community-based intervention may reduce internalizing symptoms and improve academic outcomes in adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa.

2019 large-scale clinical trial with 413 youths across Kenya

  • Youths from diverse backgrounds were randomized to receive Shamiri or an active control intervention of equal duration and dosage
  • Shamiri showed greater reductions in depression (Cohen d = 0.35) and anxiety symptoms (Cohen d = 0.37) post-treatment.
  • Effects were maintained for depression at the 2-week follow-up (Cohen d = 0.28), and 7-month follow-up (Cohen d = 0.45). Effect also maintained for anxiety at the 2-week follow-up (Cohen d = 0.26), and 7-month follow-up (Cohen d = 0.44).

This was one of the first adequately powered tests in this population of a scalable intervention grounded in simple positive psychological elements.