Friday, 19 March

Contact Us if you are interested in further information about this event that was held on the 19th March 2021

Join us for a Zoom conversation with the founders of the Friendship Bench, to hear about its success and their vision to work with New Zealand groups to support those struggling with depression, anxiety and loneliness in our communities.

8.30am - 10.00am
FREE 90 minute Online Workshop

It has become apparent that the Ministry of Health does not have a plan to implement the recommendations of He Ara Oranga : Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction leaving many unable to access support for the mental health challenges that they face. 

Recently, the Acting Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addiction publically acknowledged that the Ministry was "unable to do everything at once. We need a clear long-term pathway to help us all to prioritise and guide actions over multiple years.”  This is their current focus - a plan.

New Zealand is not alone as these are challenges being faced by other countries also - but there are proven innovative evidence-based programs that community organisations could implement immediately and respond compassionately to this their communities. 

We would like to invite you to a free webinar with Dr Ruth Verhey (Zimbabwe) to hear about the internationally acclaimed FRIENDSHIP BENCH PROGRAM where they have trained more than 700 grandmothers to provide FREE TALKING THERAPIES to community members struggling with depression, anxiety and loneliness. Countless lives have been saved, and pressure taken off hospital systems.

The Programme

The Friendship Bench creates safe spaces and a sense of belonging in communities, to enhance mental wellbeing and improve peoples’ quality of life. Guided by values of empathy and connection, and anchored in over a decade of rigorous research (including a RCT published in the Journal of American Medical Association, JAMA) they have re-imagined the delivery of evidence-based mental healthcare.

The Friendship Bench clinical team trains community health workers (also known as lay health workers) to provide basic Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with an emphasis on Problem Solving Therapy, activity scheduling and peer led group support. This task shifting approach means they can deliver an effective, affordable and sustainable solution to bridge the mental health treatment gap at a primary care level.

The community health workers deliver the talk therapy intervention to people with mild to moderate level common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in unconventional settings - trained CHWs sit with their clients outdoors, under the trees on wooden park benches in discreet safe spaces in the community. During training, a referral pathway is established for cases which are considered ‘red flags’ where a higher level of care is needed.

After the one-on-one talk therapy, Friendship Bench clients are introduced to a peer led support group where they are connected to others who have sat on the Friendship Bench, received PST and became empowered to solve their own problems. Group members can relate to one another because they tend to come from the same community and have learned about the benefit of empathic listening. This safe space to talk in and be heard contributes to clients’ sense of belonging and reduces stigma surrounding mental health and sharing of personal issues.

To date, the Friendship Bench has trained over 1000 lay health workers, seen more than 50 000 clients and is active in 5 countries. Their impact, published in JAMA, showed an 80% reduction in depression and suicide ideation, and a 60% improvement in quality of life. 

We have been talking with many groups about the Friendship Bench model and have received a very positive response. Many would like to explore whether this model would work within their communities, and it seems to align well with Iwi / Hapu values and the opportunity to engage Kuia to become ‘community health workers’. Conversations with Government agencies have also been positive.  We would like to work with those groups to bring the Friendship Bench model to New Zealand communities.

Join us for a Zoom conversation with the founders of the Friendship Bench, to hear about its success and their vision to work with New Zealand groups to support those struggling with Depression, anxiety and loneliness in our communities.

Dr Ruth Verhey

Ruth is a clinical psychologist, works as psychotherapist and is the co-developer of the Friendship Bench intervention. She is also part of the Friendship Bench (FB) management team and Co-PI on all FB research projects. Dr. Verhey holds a PhD from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Her research focuses on easily accessible and affordable care for common mental disorders, community-based interventions, group support, the well-being of counsellors as well as PTSD in people who live with HIV. Originally from Germany, she has lived in Colombia and has been working in Zimbabwe since 2004.

Date & Location

Friday, 19 March
8.30am - 10.00am
FREE 90 minute Online Workshop - you will be sent the details to 'attend' this ZOOM meeting once you are registered.
Places are limited and we expect strong interest from groups looking to drive change in service delivery within their communities.

Further Details

This workshop will be delivered using ZOOM. Please familiarise yourself with ZOOM, it is very easy and free to use.

Watch this video on How to Join a ZOOM meeting:

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For further details, please contact:
p: 027 204 0425