Counsel of Elders

Called kufungisisa (Shona for “thinking too much”), depression is a high burden in Zimbabwe. In 2006, a paucity of providers—there are 12 psychiatrists for the entire country—led Dixon Chibanda, director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative, to establish the Friendship Bench.

The program has since trained over 400 grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy, delivered free in more than 70 communities. The grandmothers—who have no prior experience—use cultural contexts to help people struggling with depression and a 2016 study found that the program significantly lowers symptoms.

The program is easily replicable, Chibanda says, and similar projects have popped up worldwide .



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