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Friendship Benches: A Simple Solution to Mental Health Care

In Zimbabwe, mental health care is scarce. Tambudzai Tembo, after her son's arrest, faced despair. Traditional therapy was out of reach. A wooden bench and a grandmother's ear saved her.

This therapy, known as the Friendship Bench, employs trained grandmothers to listen and counsel. It draws from Zimbabwe's traditional respect for elders' wisdom. Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist, pioneered this approach, training grandmothers in basic problem-solving therapy.

The method has since spread to the U.S., Vietnam, Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, and London. In New York, orange benches provide support in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Washington has its own initiative, DC Grandparents for Mental Health.

The benches create a trusted space where people can open up to grandmothers, breaking the stigma. Barbara Allen, an 81-year-old grandmother, advocates for this cause, believing that age brings innate wisdom.

The Friendship Bench meets a critical need by offering a simple, effective solution. Grandmothers, with their empathy and local connections, are pivotal. They make mental health care accessible and personal.

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