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How a bench and a team of grandmothers can tackle depression

Dr. Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist in Harare, Zimbabwe, developed an evidence-based mental health program that has had stunning results – and the rest of the world is taking note.  It has been effectively implemented in New York City.

Lacking any other option in a country with many mental health problems, Dr. Chibanda “began training grandmothers as best he could. At first, he tried to adhere to the medical terminology developed in the West, using words like “depression” and “suicidal ideation”. But the grandmothers told him this wouldn’t work. In order to reach people, they insisted, they needed to communicate through culturally rooted concepts that people can identify with. They needed, in other words, to speak the language of their patients. So in addition to the formal training the received, they worked together to incorporate Shona concepts of opening up the mind, and uplifting and strengthening the spirit.”  Culturally responsive care involves learning from the community about how to communicate effectively about mental illness, recovery and wellness.  This is especially important when working with the diverse populations in Merced County.

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