Helping Low-Income Moms Combat Depression

low-incomeOne-fourth of low-income, minority mothers struggle with major depression, likely due to the stress and pressure that accompany motherhood and poverty.[1] Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness, plus the limited access to quality treatment, prevents many from receiving the care they need.1 Therefore, a new study has proposed that screening for depression and providing short-term relationship-focused therapy through weekly home visits may relieve minority mothers from the disorder.1 This can have far-reaching benefits for the mothers and their children, too.1

Lead researcher and psychologist Dr. Sheree Toth and colleagues tracked a 14-week intervention for mothers who were overwhelmed, living in high-crime neighborhoods, lacking social support, and often traumatized.1 The weekly one-hour therapy sessions were shown to relieve their depression better than standard clinic-based care.1 Eight months after treatment ended, the study’s participants continued to show improvement, as they reported regaining a sense of hope and control over their lives, as well as feeling more connected to and supported by others.1

The Beck Depression Inventory, a frequently used questionnaire that gauges depression, was used.1 A score of 19 or above indicates major depression, and the women in the study had an average score of 27.1 Eight months after therapy had ended, the score averaged 9.6. In contrast, women who received community care remained clinically depressed, with an average score of 21 at the eight-month follow-up.1

Toth and colleagues state that there is a severe need for screening high-risk populations.1 None of the study participants sought treatment, but were found through a questionnaire at physicians’ offices and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) subsidized nutrition programs.1 According to Toth, doctors often ask questions like “Do you wear your seatbelt?” so why not ask if someone is feeling depressed?1 The likelihood of depression is much higher than getting into a car accident.1

Extensive research has shown that young children whose primary caregivers are depressed often learn to have depressive attitudes and behaviors.1 They may fail to develop secure attachments which sets them up for a wide range of difficulties, from behavior problems to failure in school to involvement with the juvenile justice system to major psychiatric problems throughout life.1

Even with the creative accommodations offered in this study, 40 percent of mothers identified as depressed declined all care.1 Toth and colleagues suggest that future research explore ways of creating a more welcoming interview process and care system.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2013). Screening, Home-Based Therapy Help Low-Income Moms Combat Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/11/11/screening-home-based-therapy-help-low-income-moms-combat-depression/61883.html

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