a student in the library stacks

ThriveRU: Proactive Solutions to Student Mental Health Issues

by Julie Mutis, 1st Year Journalism, originally created for Journalism class assignment

I wrote a story about ThriveRU in my first few months at Ryerson. Although I have not yet gotten to participate in the program, I learned a lot about it during the process of writing my article. The fact that this was my first graded assignment had me a little nervous and when I learned the story was on the topic of mental health, I felt very small compared to a very big and complex topic.

I attended Dr. Brecher’s press conference thinking I would be writing a story about mental illness. However, I soon learned that the story, and ThriveRU itself, was about mental well-being. This idea of mindfulness and everyday mental health awareness was something I had never considered, but when presented to me, seemed like something I should have always been doing.

I am grateful I got to learn about ThriveRU early in my university career for a few reasons. The practice of mindfulness and making mental health a priority is an easy and important thing to incorporate into every day life. Having learned this, I have been able to set goals for my mental resilience and have aimed to thrive and not just get by at university. It’s encouraging to see and report on how Ryerson is working to improve student well-being on a variety of levels. I look forward to watching how the story and ThriveRU progress throughout my years at Ryerson.

You can read the story I wrote for my journalism class below.


Dr. Diana Brecher spoke with journalism students at a press conference at Ryerson University about ThriveRU, the school’s newest mental health initiative.

According to Brecher, ThriveRU, which she began in July 2016, aims to use positive psychology to help students gain mental resilience skills and prevent mental health emergencies before they happen. She explained that this is done by promoting the “5 factor model of resilience” in order to help students “bounce back” from the adversities in life. She listed these 5 factors as positivity, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement and vitality.

Brecher has worked at Ryerson for 26 years and recently went from a position as a clinical psychologist to the Scholar-­in-­Residence, Positive Psychology, for the ThriveRU Initiative.

Staff and Student Affairs will be the first to receive training from ThriveRU according to Brecher. She explained that the training will help programs such as Tri-Mentoring, International Student Services, Residence Advisors and others run through Student Affairs to implement tactics of resilience and optimism in their interactions with Ryerson students.

A Canadian Association of College and University Student Services study found that over the course of 2015, 64.5 per cent of post-secondary students across Canada reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.” Brecher spoke about how she has designed a Workbook of weekly exercises for ThriveRU that is aimed at avoiding these feelings by addressing the specific stressors students experience at different times in the year, such as during mid-terms.

“All of us will have adversity in our lives, but not everyone bounces back fast,” said Brecher. “The Medical Centre deals with students who are dealing with distressing mental health issues, Academic Accommodation Support services deal with students who have an existing disabilities related to mental health, and counselling deals with more immediate issues and [ThriveRU] is dealing with trying to prevent things from getting worse along the way.”

“When I started this program I designed it for students who had come to the counselling centre who were on our wait list,” said Brecher. ThriveRU’s goal is to proactively help “People who are doing moderately well in their life do much better.”

“If we are keeping people out of the lines by taking preemptive steps, then the lines are going to be shorter,” said Media Production student Ethan Creer. This year Ryerson has added more counsellors to their staff, but reducing the number of students seeking crisis management for mental health related issues is one of the program’s eventual goals according to Brecher.

RU Leadership staff Cassie Anton is in the process of doing ThriveRU training and notes how “With mental health, people don’t really do anything about it or treat it until it becomes serious.”

Brecher said her hope is that ThriveRU will “Get people to feel that they are really thriving in their life… If someone knows how to thrive, they will know how to cope with failure.”

Staff and Student Affairs ThriveRU training rolled out in February 2017 with some groups already trained or in the process of training. Brecher commented that for ThriveRU, “Really big success would be that 35,000 students at Ryerson not only know about this program, but have participated in it.”