We Are the World Blogfest: The Friendship Bench Project

Today I’m participating in We Are the World Blogfest. More about that at the end, but basically, it’s a chance to share positive news. This month I wanted to talk about the Friendship Bench – Zimbabwe project.

Two people sitting on a bench by beach

The Friendship Bench – Zimbabwe project is a project started in Zimbabwe to help people dealing with depression and anxiety. There is a treatment gap in Zimbabwe where there is one psychiatrist per 1 million people. 

The Friendship Bench Project uses a cognitive behavioral therapy based approach to address ‘kufungisisa’. Kufungisisa, the local term for depression, translated to mean thinking too much.

Patients visiting primary care clinics are being screened with a locally validated tool called the Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ). When scoring above the cut off score, they are being referred to the friendship bench where they will receive individual problem solving therapy from a specifically trained lay health worker.

There on the bench, participants are taught a structured approach to identifying problems and find workable solutions. Lay health workers follow a detailed script contained in a manual to conduct 6 sessions on a bench located in a discreet area outside the clinic.4

A decade after the program began, research showed that those who had used the Friendship Bench showed a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. Today, Friendship Benches have been established in the island of Zanzibar, in Malawi and in New York City. 

Read an article about Friendship Benches and visit Friendship Benches – Zimbabwe

FACTS AND FIGURES | friendship-bench

There are 6 public institutions with psychiatric beds: 1) Harare Hospital Psychiatric Unit 2) Parirenyatwa Hospital Annex 3) Ingutsheni Hospital 4) Mpilo Hospital Psychiatric Unit 5) Ngomahuru Unit (Masvingo Hosp.)

We Are the World Blogfest

We Are the World Blogfest seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

We will link to charities supported by the co-hosts, and you could choose to donate to some of them or add links to local charities you support, so we could all chip in to a good cause if we like.

Let us flood social media with peace and love, and “In Darkness, Be Light.”

Here are this month’s cohosts:

We Are the World  Blogfest

 Shilpa Garg

Simon Falk 

Damyanti Biswas

Lizbeth Hartz 

Eric Lahti


  1. Keep your post to below 500 words.
  2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood.
  3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
  4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
  5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

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  1. Hilary

    Hi Catherine – oh yes, people in Zimbabwe are so in need of some love and attention – the poor, desperate and just plain lonely will benefit hugely from these interactions with the bench and the people who are there to help. What a great idea – and so pleased to read it’s happening elsewhere … cheers Hilary

  2. susan scott

    So glad to hear that Zimbabwe has initiated this. It’s such a great idea, more countries could do likewise. Thanks Catherine for sharing this. I’m exempt this month so I’m just commenting.

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