Mental ill health costs the world a staggering $2.5 trillion, but that figure could be cut down to a quarter of what it is today simply by making sure everyone everywhere has someone to turn to.

Single dad Bernard Basapo says he’s now a changed man thanks to his chats on The Friendship Bench. The Friendship Bench started in Zimbabwe and is a simple, effective way of helping people with their mental health. People visit a trained grandmother, who sits on a bench in a quiet place near a health centre, and talk through a problem together to find solutions.

We’re highlighting the success of The Friendship Bench at the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London (9-10 October 2018). Guests at the summit – who include political leaders, experts, campaigners and people with mental health conditions – will have the chance to have a chat on a recreation of the original bench we’ve had made for the occasion. They’ll be introduced to The Friendship Bench by Elisha London, CEO of United for Global Mental Health.

Elisha London and Alison Brunier of the World Health Organization on the Friendship Bench.

“We want to help ensure that proven ways to improve mental health, such as the Friendship Bench, can be funded, grown and shared between countries and continents, to help millions of people and save lives around the world,” says Elisha. “The Global Ministerial summit is an important step towards good mental health for all. By coming together at a community, national and international level we can accelerate this progress. It’s time to act.”

Our ambassador and The Friendship Bench founder Dixon Chibanda agrees we must empower communities to tackle the global gap between mental health problems and the treatments available. Dixon says. “Our clinical trial showed grandmothers were more effective at treating people with depression than doctors. Imagine what a global network of grandmothers, trained as counsellors, could do to reduce the number of people with mental ill health.”


You can find out more in a short film (opens in Vimeo, 3:30mins) about The Friendship Bench.