Tag Archives: Volunteering

Has Zimbabwe Found the Solution to the Mental Health Crisis?

Many people have experienced worsening mental health since the COVID pandemic began. Many others struggled even before. But I came across an interesting article today about a very innovative program in Zimbabwe that just might have the solution. It’s called the Friendship Bench:

This is a community-based psychological treatment programme delivered by over 700 trained community grandmothers in over 100 communities in Zimbabwe.

In a country with just 13 psychiatrists for a population of 16 million, this model has helped expand mental health outreach.

It has taken years to build the Friendship Bench model and show that through talk therapy, trained grandmothers can treat depression, anxiety and alleviate suicidal thoughts across communities in Zimbabwe and beyond.

We tend to assume that only professionals can provide talk therapy, but Zimbabwe’s experience argues otherwise. Zimbabwe has few resources and so it was forced to innovate, but we could benefit from their discovery.

Such a program is all the more feasible in the US or other wealthy countries, with our broad access to the internet and smartphones.

P.S. This is by no means the first time major innovations have come from Zimbabwe. Lyft was originally called Zimride (Zimbabwe Ride) and was inspired by ridesharing systems there.