When we feel down and depressed, talking to other people, whether they are ordinary people or a health expert, helps alleviate our burdens. This is the main reason why a group of experts came up with a "Friendship Bench."
According to reports published
in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Friendship Benches could be the best solution to fight mental illness such as depression in poor countries. Impoverished people are not exempted to depression and other psychiatric issues. However, these people have limited access to medical care.
Thus, experts did a trial in Zimbabwe, where six sessions of individuals with different mental illness were tried to be solved by providing therapies from trained, supervised, but are not formally licensed listeners called as "grandmothers."
After some time of weekly sessions, experts saw improvements in people who have signs of mental disorders compared to a healthy control group.
Compared to 14 percent who received Friendship Bench, 50 percent who received standard care still showed signs of depression. Similar results were noticed to people with anxiety. Only 12 percent of patients who received Friendship Bench showed symptoms of anxiety, compared to 48 percent who received standard care.
"In many parts of Africa, if you are poor and mentally ill, your chances of getting adequate treatment are close to zero," says Dr. Karlee Silver, Vice President Programs at Grand Challenges Canada in a post
. "In Zimbabwe, that's changing thanks to the Friendship Bench, the first project with the potential to make mental health care accessible to an entire African nation."
The Government of Canada through the Grand Challenges Canada funded the study, where randomised controlled trial was conducted by the University of Zimbabwe, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and King's College London. The study is published today in JAMA, the world's most widely-circulated medical journal.
"The Friendship Bench team, working with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health, has been able to substantially scale up services for some of the most deprived people in the community," says Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization, in an interview.
"By supporting the uptake of mental health innovations like the Friendship Bench, Canada is helping to turn the tide in the global mental health challenge."