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Creating safe spaces and a sense of belonging during COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented levels of disruption worldwide. In addition to the direct impact of the virus on human health, the impact on social, emotional, and economic well-being is tremendous and will only continue to grow.


At the Friendship Bench, we remain committed to providing sustainable community-based mental health services through this time of increased social isolation and uncertainty. Below are a few of the ways we are working to safely support to our communities right now:



We are developing and publishing a wide range of EDUCATIONAL AWARENESS POSTERS AND INFOGRAPHICS which are freely available to download on our website content carried through to our social media channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).


With the use of WhatsApp, the most popular voice and messaging app in Zimbabwe, our Youth Friendship Bench buddies host DAILY GROUP CHATS for the youth as they sit at home during lockdown and the subsequent shut down of schools. Groups are open and free to join, and by using WhatsApp we open the conversation and community to people who may have got stuck in another country as boarders closed but are seeking comfort from connecting with groups closer to home. 


All materials can be shared and downloaded freely.



FB had designed a variety of worksheets and workbooks that can be used for self-care and self-exploration as people have to stay at home during lockdowns. Although there has been changed in routine, such as cancellation of weekly trips to visit counsellors or support groups there is still work we can do on ourselves while in isolation. It can be a time to use for good, to connect with oneself and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life where we often times wish we had more alone time!



FB Open Line offers one-on-one problem solving therapy over WhatsApp or Zimbabwe's standard telecommunication services for all who need. The servcie is free, people can remain anonymous and sessions are confidential.


To connect with the FB Open Line service message +263 784 845 294, select a date and time that suits, and then be ready to be contacted by one of our trained peer counsellors on the agreed date.



In parallel to the FB Open Line service, we are also working to shift our program delivery to a digital platform- The Friendship Bench App. This is a running trial and is free for people to sign up to, once the app is downloaded individuals receive problem solving therapy through the text-based messaging platform. We are hoping to see this App make evidence-based mental health care more accessible, to make mental health care more appealing to the younger generations and to be able to reach people unwilling to be seen at a Clinic. If you are Zimbabwean and you want to sign up for the trial you can do it right here!

We will continue to prioritize delivering access to mental health at the highest level, to the greatest number of people. Our vision is to have a Friendship Bench within walking distance for everyone. We believe that many of the shifts that we are making to accommodate the realities of COVID-19 will also strengthen our work and our capacity to deliver on this vision over the long term.


As always, be kind to your mind (be extra kind during this time of uncertainty), accept the change and be open to a new way of being.