We read over and over that in the United States we are not meeting the needs of our community in many ways, including mental health support. What if we took a totally different tactic - what if we built a more reliable, stable solution for mental health support like psychiatrist Dr Dixon Chibanda is doing in Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe has a huge mental health services problem - there are only 12 psychiatrists in Zimbabwe - for a population of more than 16 million. Dr Chibanda solution? He first asked what did his country have an abundance of - grandmothers. Chibanda then started training grandmothers in evidence based talk therapy and created the Friendship Bench Project! Chibanda said, "So I thought, how about training grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy, which they can deliver on a bench? Empower them with the skills to listen, to show empathy, all of that rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy; empower them with the skills to provide behavior activation, activity scheduling; and support them using digital technology.You know, mobile phone technology. Pretty much everyone in Africa has a mobile phone today."
I'd say most grandmothers already have these skills - we could tap into their wisdom and help so many!
You can learn more about these amazing grandmothers here. And read more about the project here.
NPR ran a news piece on the project and you can read it here.