Overcoming Divisions and Finding Connection Through ‘Task Sharing’ in Mental Healthcare: Exploring the Potential of the ‘Friendship Bench’

Natalie Dewison, University of Strathclyde

COVID-19 has amplified disparities in mental health and highlighted the distrust amongst marginalised populations towards healthcare systems. A ‘task-sharing’ approach developed in Zimbabwe, which seeks to connect isolated communities to mental healthcare by training lay people to deliver talk therapies, has achieved impressive outcomes and sparked interest in the field of global mental health. This article considers the potential of the ‘Friendship Bench’ for higher income settings. Drawing on the wider literature on ‘task sharing’ in mental healthcare, it will be argued that the success of this method relies on the commitment of mental health professionals to new ways of working, which challenge conventional divisions between ‘professional’ and ‘lived’ expertise. I posit that structural, political, and cultural developments in Scotland have created fertile ground for piloting this type of innovation, and that participatory research is needed to explore this further 

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