PENYA Youth Bench

Involved alumni:

The challenge that the project addresses

70% of Zimbabwean’s live below the poverty line and it is estimated that 1 in 4 people sufferfrom depression and anxiety in our communities. During my PhD study on tackling structural violence (social injustice), I discovered that youth in Norton are suffering fromdepression and anxiety as they fail to cope with the bleak future they face. They haveadopted detrimental coping habits such as drug-abuse and prostitution. This coupled withthe fact that there are 10 psychiatrists serving a population of 13 million Zimbabweansreduces their chances of getting much needed support.

What is your project doing to respond to this challenge?

As a follow up to my PhD study, I arranged for three young people to be trained as lay Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) counsellors by the Friendship Bench (FB). PST is based on cognitive behavioural therapy and gives the client a very structured approach to problem recognition, problem choice, problem definition, brainstorming for solution, solution options evaluation and choice, and putting the chosen solution to practice. This team of counsellors carries out mobile sessions around Norton with the aim of helping youth develop self-esteem, emotional resilience and assertiveness whilst tackling depression (kufungisisa), negative thoughts and anxiety.

Describe the project's impact

  • Create a community-based point of presence where youth in need of help can be signposted to.
  • Provide the much-needed psychosocial support for marginalised youth and therefore reduce the incidences of depression and substance abuse.
  • Enhance mental well-being and improve quality of life.
  • Enable youth ‘kuvhura pfungwa’ which refers to the therapeutic process by which, through asking questions, clients are encouraged to open their minds to identify their problems, choose one to work on, identify a feasible solution, and agree on an action plan guided by the counsellors.
  • Create safe spaces for youth that allow them to meet discuss solutions to social injustice and mental health issues affecting the local community.

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