Volunteer grandparents’ team helps care for depressed patients in Zimbabwe
Grannies are really great. In addition to cooking better than many chefs, they do nothing less than save lives by helping to care for patients with depression in Zimbabwe. With 16 million people and only 12 psychiatrists, the country urgently needed a boost to work the mental health of its inhabitants. Like pets, hallucinogenic mushrooms and strengthening exercises, the old ladies found their way to help those who suffer from the disease. Through a program in which they have been trained in evidence-based therapy techniques, more than 400 grandmothers have been trained to help people with depression since 2006. Today, they work for free in more than 70 communities in Zimbabwe.
Two women chatting on a bench, one carrying a baby on her lap.
Such a big project started with just one person: the Zimbabwean psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, the only doctor of the specialty working in the country’s public health system. As he sought more resources, he came across the fact that all available staff were busy with problems such as HIV and maternal and child care. That was when the snap came to call the grandmothers as volunteers for work.
Group of women sewing on a bench in front of a brick building in sight
To approach the local community, where mental health is not yet a recurring theme, the doctor was assisted by the grandmothers who adapted the terms used in Europe and the Americas to issues already rooted in the local culture. So the therapy started talking about opening the mind, strengthening and animating the spirit, as the BBC report says.
The program was named Banco da Amizade and in 2017 it served more than 30 thousand people. The interventions last for six sessions, lasting approximately 40 minutes – except for the first visit to the bank, which takes an average of one hour.
Two women talking sitting on a bench In 2016, a study in collaboration with doctors from Zimbabwe and the UK proved the effectiveness of the method. With the success of the initiative, the program has been expanded to other countries, including the United States, Malawi and Zanzibar.
Apologise for google grammar