This country has only 10 psychiatrists. That's where 'professional grandmothers' come in.

Getting mental health care in America can be difficult. In Zimbabwe, it's near impossible.

The country is home to 15 million people and only about 10 psychiatrists. For comparison, the United States has at least 24,000 psychiatrists. But depression and anxiety are not just a first world problem.

"Common mental disorders impose a huge burden on all countries of sub-Saharan Africa," said health researcher Dr. Dixon Chibanda in a press release.


Zimbabwe has a secret weapon though: the Friendship Bench.

Image from The Friendship Bench Project, used with permission.

Developed from over 20 years of community research, The Friendship Bench Project is a different and smart way to tackle mental health care.

You can find one of the inviting benches outside some of Zimbabwe's many health clinics. Sitting down, you might get a visit from an older woman. These women are known as golden ladies or grandmothers. You can talk to them. They listen. Then, they might help you identify problems in your life or give you advice to help you feel positive and in control.

Its might seem simple, but these grandmothers are health workers — and very effective.

Photo from Grand Challenges Canada/Flickr, used with permission.

They're not just dispensing random advice. The grandmothers are health care workers who've have been trained in what's called problem-solving therapy. And it turns out it could be a pretty effective strategy.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the grandmothers against the usual care options, including a nurse assessment or optional medications. The study found that after six visits to the Friendship Bench, visitors were three times less likely to have the symptoms of depression six months later (50% versus 14%). The results were even more striking for anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

There were, of course, a few limitations to the study. Not a lot of men signed up, for example. And there's some more nuance, like exactly how the comparison was done. If you're interested, the full text is here. But the bottom line is that it seems to have worked.

Better mental health care is important for everyone, but low- and middle-income countries may need it especially badly.

"In many parts of Africa, if you are poor and mentally ill, your chances of getting adequate treatment are close to zero," said Karlee Silver in a press release about the Friendship Bench Project. Worse still, in many places in Africa, there's still a stigma — sometimes very serious stigma — around mental disorders and mental health care.

And all this adds up. In addition to adding to human suffering, the cost of treating mental health problems and lost productivity are estimated to cost low- and middle-income countries $870 billion a year. The number may grow to more than $2 trillion by 2030.

That's why it's so heartening to see clever programs like The Friendship Bench Project at work.

Photo from Grand Challenges Canada / ZAPP.

So far, over 27,500 people have used The Friendship Bench Project.  

The program's been working with a number of other organizations too, such as the Zimbabwe Ministry and Health and Grand Challenges Canada. They are currently located in a few of Zimbabwe's cities, including Harare, the capital, but are planning to expand to even more clinics.

They also plan to reach out to more vulnerable populations, such as youth or refugees, in the future.

Family


Hollywood is finally moving closer to equality. The past few years have seen a growing number of films starring, written by and directed by women. There's still a lot of progress yet to be made, of course. But there's one area where women have been kicking butt and taking names for decades: action films. Ironically, action films are stereotyped as the launching pad of the manliest of manly men: Schwarzenegger, The Rock, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone and so on. But some of the biggest action hits, both critically and commercially, are led by women.

If you're looking to expand your home video library for the holidays or just searching for a great holiday playlist while taking out some healthy aggression, here are 12 of our all-time favorite films featuring strong women front and center.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. It's a sad and heartbreaking experience, but there still is a lot to learn from going through something so tragic. Beyoncé recently shared what she learned from her miscarriages in an "ask me anything" published in the January 2020 issue of Elle Magazine.

A fan asked Beyoncé if she was disappointed she didn't win awards for Lemonade and Homecoming. Beyoncé said her miscarriages helped put it in perspective. "I began to search for deeper meaning when life began to teach me lessons I didn't know I needed. Success looks different to me now. I learned that all pain and loss is in fact a gift," she said in Elle Magazine.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Even though 68% of women in America where size 14 or above, plus sized women tend to draw more heat for the outfits that they wear, especially if those outfits are even remotely racy. Earlier this week, Lizzo was spotted at a LA Lakers game wearing the dress heard round the internet. Dubbed the "thong dress," Lizzo's t-shirt dress was straightforward in the front, but the back featured cutouts featuring her thong and fishnet stockings.

During the game, Lizzo twerked when the Laker Girls danced to her song "Juice," giving the crowd a full view of her ensemble.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The Miss America pageant was started in 1921, but women of color were barred from participating until 1940. It took another 30 years for the first black woman to participate in the pageant in 1970. In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win Miss America. Now, the winners of all four major beauty pageants are all black women.

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe, making this the first time in history that Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe are all black women. Tunzi is the first black woman to win Miss Universe since 2011, when Leila Lopes took home the crown.


Keep Reading Show less