A psychiatrist came up with a simple solution for treating depression -- and it's worked.
When Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist from Zimbabwe, heard a 26-year-old client of his had committed suicide when she couldn’t afford the $15 bus fare to his office, he was “haunted.” With a huge lack of medical professionals and facilities to help those suffering from depression, Chibanda felt desperate to try and find a solution for those in need.
The word for depression in Chibanda’s country is “kufungisisa,” meaning “thinking too much.” A phenomenon that seems to be increasing on a global scale — in fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that in 2016, 6.7 percent of U.S. adults had experienced one bout of major depression in their lives, equating to a staggering 16.2 million adults. In Zimbabwe itself, Chibanda is only one of 12 practicing psychiatrists for a population of 16 million, creating a huge scarcity of professional help.
Looking to his supervisors for help, Chibanda was told there were no resources available, just 14 grandmothers and outdoor space. The psychiatrist’s reaction was to think outside the box. He decided to enlist these seniors in the Friendship Bench program. It’s simple: Those in need can come sit on the bench and receive a sympathetic ear. Although his colleagues thought the idea was “nonsense,” Chibanda pressed ahead with his plans.