CEI and Grit Digital Health Partner to Tackle Loneliness Affecting High School Students

March 31, 2021

Popular College Campus Mobile App to be Adapted for High School Student Use

The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and Grit Digital Health have announced a partnership to bring Nod, an app that builds social skills and combats loneliness, to high school students in Colorado and ultimately nationwide. The partnership is focused on empowering students to build rich communities, agency, and self-advocacy – with a specific emphasis on meeting the unique needs of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

Through grant support from The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health, CEI and Grit Digital Health are engaging Colorado high school students, parents, and school staff partners to help adapt the existing Nod for College mobile app and develop new content that meets the unique needs of high school students, with a specific focus on BIPOC and LGBTQ teens. Launched in 2019 jointly by Grit Digital Health and Hopelab, Nod uses the science of social connection to tackle loneliness on college campuses. The app is designed to reduce the impact of loneliness on young people’s well-being by empowering students to build strong social connections as part of a successful school experience regardless of learning environment.

Nod addresses the psychological underpinnings of loneliness using skill-building challenges and personal reflection exercises to break social goals down into achievable steps. Research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found use of the Nod app buffered at-risk college students from loneliness and depression while also improving sleep quality, social support, and intent to remain enrolled in school. 

“Loneliness is an urgent challenge, heightened by COVID-19, negatively impacting teens and putting them a higher risk for mental health issues from anxiety and depression to self-harm and suicidal ideation,” said CEI President and CEO Rebecca Holmes. “CEI is keenly interested in strategies and activities that build student social connection and prevent loneliness and depression, especially for students who are most struggling. With additional emphasis surrounding COVID’s impact on student connectedness and mental health, it has never been more important to support this work.”

In the latest Needs Assessment Survey conducted by CEI in partnership with The Colorado Department of Education, mental health was found as a top concern for Colorado school districts. 

Nationally, numerous studies and anecdotal perspectives, including the 2021 National Poll on Children’s Health, have shown the impact of pandemic restrictions have been particularly difficult for teens who rely heavily on peer and social connections for emotional support. Around half of parents who responded to the poll said they have noticed a new or worsening mental health condition for their teen since the start of the pandemic. 

Grit Digital Health and CEI will launch Nod on a pilot basis for the 2021-22 school year in select high schools. The pilot’s goal is to impact up to 30,000 students with an emphasis on those from historically marginalized groups. Pilot insights will inform a larger rollout of the app for Colorado high schools, with the end goal of scaling the reach and impact of Nod across the country.

“The mental health challenges young people face in 2020 are unlike those of any previous generation. These savvy digital natives are already using technology as a key channel for social connection, and Nod gives them another tool to strengthen their relationships and grow their social skills,” said Joe Conrad, founder and CEO of Grit Digital Health. “Our partnership with CEI is uniquely designed to help us modify and scale Nod for high school through their expertise and deep relationships with schools and districts across Colorado.”

CEI has several projects underway with a dual focus on social emotional development and equity, designed to address youth mental health in schools and beyond. This includes facilitating the recently launched Recovery Summer Coalition of more than 60 education practitioners, foundations, and nonprofit partners. The Coalition is focused on re-connecting and re-engaging students for a relationship-rich, learning-infused summer while supporting families as active partners in their child’s learning experiences.

Schools interested in learning more about the Nod for High School app or the Colorado pilot can contact Marcus Bratton (mbratton@coloradoedinitiative.org) or Nathaan Demers, Psy.D. (nathaan@gritdigitalhealth.com).

About Grit Digital Health

Grit Digital Health develops behavioral health solutions through design and technology that envision a new way to approach mental health and well-being. In addition to Nod, they are the creators of YOU at College, a personalized well-being platform for students and Man Therapy, a ground-breaking men’s mental health campaign. The company aims to solve critical health problems through innovation and creativity.

About The Upswing Fund

The Upswing Fund is a collaborative fund that was created in 2020 in response to COVID-19. Upswing’s goal is to mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact upon young people nationwide, especially adolescents who are of color and LGBTQ.