Get Together

Ruth Verhey of Friendship Bench 👵 Bringing Grandmothers together in Zimbabwe to listen to those in need

Episode Summary

Zimbabwe is a country of over 16 million people, but there are just twelve practicing psychiatrists. Twelve! These statistics are the norm in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ratio of psychiatrists and psychologists to citizens is one for every 1.5 million and some countries don’t even have a single psychiatrist. Friendship Bench is beautiful community-sourced effort to close that gap. Grandmothers give their time to sit at benches and listen to people facing mental health challenges. Since 2006, founder Dixon Chibanda, Ruth Verhey and their team have trained over 300 of the grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy, which they deliver for free in more than 70 communities in Zimbabwe. In 2017 alone, the Friendship Bench, as the program is called, helped over 30,000 people there. The method has been empirically vetted—meaning this treatment works, in some studies its proven more effective than conventional treatments like anti-depressants—and has been expanded to countries beyond, including the US.

Episode Notes

Today we're talking to Ruth Verhey, a clinical psychologist who works for the Friendship Bench team in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is a country of over 16 million people, but there are just twelve practicing psychiatrists. Twelve! These statistics are the norm in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ratio of psychiatrists and psychologists to citizens is one for every 1.5 million and some countries don’t even have a single psychiatrist.

And because of the history of trauma and war in the country, Ruth tells us that ~40% of Zimbabweans may be suffering from some form of depression and anxiety.

Friendship Bench is beautiful community-sourced effort to close that gap. Grandmothers give their time to sit at benches and listen to people facing mental health challenges.

Since 2006, Ruth, founder Dixon Chibanda, and their team have trained over 300 of the grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy, which they deliver for free in more than 70 communities in Zimbabwe. In 2017 alone, the Friendship Bench, as the program is called, helped over 30,000 people there. The method has been empirically vetted—meaning this treatment works, in some studies its proven more effective than conventional treatments like anti-depressants—and has been expanded to countries beyond, including the US.

This organization is all about training and capacity building, something we love. Asking others to help you with work - letting others participate - is what is so remarkable to us. It's hard for a lot of organizations to give up control, but in this case it has helped Friendship Bench reach more people than they ever could on their own.

If you want to get involved with Friendship Bench, go to their website: www.friendshipbenchzimbabwe.org/

Grab your copy of GET TOGETHER—our handbook on community-building 🔥: bit.ly/gettogetherbook