A new kind of community health outreach has made people feel better about seeking help.
In Zimbabwe, public health workers have piloted a program in which trained community members sit on park benches to listen and talk with people having psychological difficulties. Researchers found that those who shared their troubles at a "Friendship Bench" in a six-month study recovered completely from depression-like symptoms at a rate of 87%. By contrast, they only found a recovery rate of 50% for those who spoke to nurses and received medication at traditional health settings.
Furthermore, 27,000 people have tried the program, which takes place in public spaces, despite a great amount of social stigma surrounding mental illness. Researchers think the relaxed setting and employment of respected community members may be helping to increase its draw. The program is also tailored to its home culture's concepts of mental health and how to approach it; it is framed in terms that people are familiar and comfortable with.