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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

As Canada's women's soccer team prepares for its gold medal match against Sweden this week in Tokyo, it also prepares to make history as the first Olympic team to have an openly transgender, non-binary athlete win a medal at the games.

Quinn, the 25-year-old midfielder, announced their non-binary identity on social media last September, adopting they/them pronouns and a singular name. Quinn said they'd been living openly as a transgender person with their loved ones, but this was their first time coming out publicly.

"I want to be visible to queer folks who don't see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago," they wrote. "I want to challenge cis folks ( if you don't know what cis means, that's probably you!!!) to be better allies."

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