‘Myth-busting’ Guardian article on global depression showcases Centre for Global Mental Health collaboration
On 30th April 2019, The Guardian newspaper published an in-depth article by Tina Rosenberg on Global Mental Health as part of its ‘long reads’ series. The piece describes Prof Vikram Patel and Dr Melanie Abas’s early work on depression in low income countries in the 1990s, when mental health problems in those settings were attributed solely to factors such as social injustice or colonialism. Building on Patel and Abas’s work that showed commonality of depressive symptoms between populations in high- and low-income settings, the article goes on to describe the Zimbabwean Friendship Bench study in detail.
The Friendship bench programme includes an adapted psychological intervention to treat depression, which is delivered by lay health workers. The Friendship Bench was initiated by Dr Dixon Chibanda of the University of Zimbabwe, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Friendship Bench has also had significant input from CGMH collaborators particularly from Dr Melanie Abas (King’s College London), who is quoted extensively in the piece, Prof Helen Weiss (LSHTM) and Prof Ricardo Araya (KCL). The article chronicles the Friendship Bench’s positive outcomes, which were demonstrated in a randomised controlled trial that led to scale up of the programme and its national roll-out in Zimbabwe. The Friendship Bench also comprises income-generating activity to provide economic benefits to participants. It is now being exported from Zimbabwe to other settings, including New York City.