Depression impacts millions of people every day, from all walks of life. It can lead to intense feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, frustration, along with physical ailments, for weeks or months. Research indicates that women have a higher incidence of depression than men. According to studies, “Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression. They also have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (chronic depression).” While there are many theories about why this might be, I decided to delve into three subpopulations of women to learn more about how depression impacts them specifically and what resources are available to help.
The gender difference presents early – according to the Child Mind Institute, “by mid-adolescence girls are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder as boys”. Theories as to why there is such a striking gap include differences in emotional development, interpersonal relationships, and potentially higher rates of exposure to social media and cyberbullying. Girls are bombarded with negative messages every day on social media that shape their body image and influence their self-confidence, and depression is growing among this population as a result. Parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for whether your child has stopped taking part in activities they once enjoyed and/or has started struggling in school. These can be signs that something is wrong, and your child may not know how to get help. Seeking help can be confusing for parents and caregivers, too; check out these tips and suggestions from Child Mind to learn more about how to effectively help your teen.
Women are also at higher risk for depression after having a baby. According to the March of Dimes, “it’s the most common complication for women who have just had a baby”. Postpartum depression comes with a great deal of stigma; women internalize messages about motherhood from the time we are girls, and despite growing awareness of postpartum depression we’re still generally expected to take on the role of ‘mother’ naturally and easily. When this doesn’t happen, women can feel guilty, ashamed, and alone. It can be difficult to properly care for your new baby when you feel this way. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, talk to your doctor about treatment options. The March of Dimes also has a list of helpful resources for more information.
Finally, low income women experience high rates of depression and unique challenges to getting help. Women working in low-wage jobs may not have access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage that includes mental health treatment options, or the ability to take time off work to seek treatment. This leads to large segments of this population suffering from untreated depression. According one study, in addition to “battling with daily economic and health concerns, women caught in the cycle of poverty can experience acute stress, despair, loss of self-worth and chronic hopelessness.” On top of the stress and isolation of depression, it can be time-consuming and confusing to navigate resources on your own; the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has put together a page with resources to look into if you think you need help, but may have trouble affording treatment.
If you are in crisis, text NAMI to 741741 this will connect you to the. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Jean Henningsen is a nonprofit leader with over a decade of experience overseeing programs that help low-income individuals and families access critical resources to set them on a path towards financial stability. She has taken on a range of responsibilities, including grants management, partnership development, and staff supervision. Her robust skill set includes planning, writing, public speaking, budget development, and talent management. She is passionate about empowering women and girls to reach their full potential. She enjoys reading, baking, volunteering, traveling with her husband, and relaxing with her cat.