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Health Beyond The Blog: Friendship Bench

Recommended by: Imani Brooks

Photo by Hal Ozart on Unsplash

The Friendship Bench is a national and international mental health intervention that started in Zimbabwe. The community based intervention focuses on problem-solving therapy, where the patient identifies a problem, rather than a diagnosis, symptom or label. Such an approach empowers patients to cope healthier and work on their mental health.


Patients visiting the 30 participating primary care clinics are screened with a locally validated tool called the Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ). If necessary, they are referred to the friendship bench where they will receive individual problem solving therapy from a specifically trained lay health worker, sometimes referred to as grandmothers in the local culture. That label removes cultural barriers against speaking about a taboo subject like mental health as grandmothers are comforting, respected elders for the community. This therapy happens outside on a physical bench near the clinic, normalizing mental health interventions for areas that do not naturally have the words in their language for their psychiatric problems.

To learn more, visit the Friendship Bench website here!