This qualitative study explored social-cultural factors that shape treatment seeking behaviors among depressed rural, low-income women in Appalachia—a region with high rates of depression and a shortage of mental health services. Recent research shows that increasingly rural women are receiving some form of treatment and identifying their symptoms as depression. Using purposive sampling, investigators recruited 28 depressed low-income women living in Appalachian Kentucky and conducted semistructured interviews on participants’ perceptions of depression and treatment seeking. Even in this sample of women with diverse treatment behaviors (half reported current treatment), participants expressed ambivalence about treatment and its potential to promote recovery. Participants stressed that poor treatment quality—not merely access—limited their engagement in treatment and at times reinforced their depression. While women acknowledged the stigma of depression, they indicated that their resistance to seek help for their depression was influenced by the expectation of women’s self-reliance in the rural setting and the gendered taboo against negative thinking. Ambivalence and stigma led women to try to cope independently, resulting in further isolation. This study’s findings reiterate the need for improved quality and increased availability of depression treatment in rural areas. In addition, culturally appropriate depression interventions must acknowledge rural cultural values of self-reliance and barriers to obtaining social support that lead many women to endure depression in isolation.

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Published in American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, v. 87, no. 3, p. 233-241.

© American Psychological Association, 2017. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000193

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