Model & Strategy

Friendship Bench (FB) has designed and validated (through an RCT) an evidence-based, scalable, and sustainable community-based intervention to enhance mental wellbeing and improve the quality of life in low-resource settings. Through a train-the-trainer model, Friendship Bench leverages lay (community) health workers to deliver Problem Solving Therapy (PST), an evidence-backed form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, bringing quality mental health services to the millions of people suffering from depression and anxiety (the two most common mental health conditions) in low-resource settings.

At a Glance
Founded: 2018
Founder & Executive Director: Dixon Chibanda
Health
Location of work: International, Africa
Friendship Bench
Zimbabwe, Africa
Creating safe spaces and a sense of belonging in communities to enhance quality of life
Meet Dixon Chibanda

Professor Dixon Chibanda is the founder of Friendship Bench, which he launched in one of Harare’s townships called Mbare in 2006 and conceptualized the first FB intervention which has now been refined and adapted considerably.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and is an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – Department of Global Mental Health. He is an Aspen Institute fellow, Mulago Foundation fellow, was recognized at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, and an official TED Talk speaker.

Impact

To date, the Friendship Bench has piloted its model in five different countries: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zanzibar, Kenya, and the US (New York City).

As of December 2019, the Friendship Bench had scaled to 72 clinics in Zimbabwe alone. In that time, the program has trained 700 lay health workers who have provided direct access to treatment for over 50,000 people suffering from common mental disorders in resource-constrained settings.

A survey of 573 participants in Zimbabwe found that the Friendship Bench intervention meaningfully reduced common mental disorder symptoms and resulted in a lower risk of depression symptoms after 6 months as compared with a control group who received enhanced usual care.

By 2025, Friendship Bench aspires to be active in 10 countries serving 5 million people.