Monday, October 14, 2019

Untapped Resource

I have reached the time in my life when some of my women friends are becoming grandmothers. I find it odd that our culture seems to look on this as a life achievement when, in fact, there is absolutely no personal effort involved. Other people do all the work. It is not a goal one can work toward, now, is it?

Yesterday I heard a piece on the TED Radio Hour on WAMU which gave me a completely new take on the status of being a grandmother. Entitled “How Can a Team of Grandmothers Make Therapy Accessible to All?” it tells the story of a mental health initiative in Zimbabwe. Mental health professionals are in extremely short supply. Dr. Dixon Chibanda, one of only fifteen psychiatrists in the country, created a new and rather unexpected model for bringing mental health care right to where people needed it most.

So in very simple terms, the Friendship Bench is really - literally a bench which is used to create space for healing. So I work with grandmothers - community grandmothers, who are trained in basics of cognitive behavioral therapy. That's just a form of therapy which is often delivered by highly-skilled professionals such as clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

So what I did in 2005 was I trained a whole lot of grandmothers to deliver this intervention. And when you looked to this part of the world, grandmothers are considered to be the custodians of local culture and wisdom. And they are rooted in their communities. And they have this amazing ability to listen in a very empathic way. They have this amazing ability to be attentive. And I think they are such an amazing resource.

This initiative has been so successful that they are beginning trials in other countries. 

As I listened I suddenly remembered something I had seen from the Horizon Foundation.

Emotional Support Humans Wanted

The top five reasons why you should be an Emotional Support Human for the people in your life are…

  1. You care, but you may not know how to show support. Don’t let that stop you from 
  2. reaching out. The only way to learn what they need is to ask.
  3. Telling someone to “get help” isn’t always enough – sometimes they need help getting help.
  4. The only guaranteed way to let them know you care is to tell them.
  5. They might need to talk – And they could be waiting for you to show that you’re willing to listen. Don’t be afraid of bothering them; they don’t have to talk to you if they don’t want to.
  6. Doing nothing can make things worse – when we don’t talk about mental health, we allow the stigma around it to continue.
You can learn more about the Emotional Support Human concept by going to their website. Unlike Dr. Chidaya’s program, there’s no formal training involved. And you don’t need to be a grandmother. (Although I suspect it wouldn’t hurt.)

While the two programs have very different purposes, they do share a vision of enlisting ordinary people in a community to be valuable resources for those in crisis. Think about it. We are an untapped resource. We could be the one person that helps someone in a hard time.

Interested?  Take the pledge.

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