I am a medical anthropologist focused on understanding the social-cultural factors influencing women’s mental health and health behaviors in underserved settings, and utilizing this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of interventions in order to reduce health disparities. I’ve conducted ethnographic and qualitative research among women living in slums in urban India and among women with depression in rural Appalachia, partnering with community-based research and advocacy organizations and lay health worker initiatives.
Among the 20% of U.S. women who live rural areas, depression prevalence is extremely high. Persistent poverty contributes to this high prevalence, while mental health provider shortages and stigma obstruct access to treatment. While advertising and new treatment modalities may have increased access to mental health services, contemporary rural Americans experience additional stressors of rising social inequality and changing family forms. In this context, I examine the social-cultural factors related to treatment-seeking among women with depression in Appalachian Kentucky through community-engaged qualitative research, concentrating particularly on how depression is experienced within families, and how emerging inequalities within rural communities affect the stigma of mental health.
In addition to the need for more accessible, higher quality mental health services in rural areas, women’s treatment engagement is limited by multiple and complex health challenges, extensive social duties, and the value of self-reliance. My current research focuses on adapting peer recovery interventions as a community-based alternative to clinical treatment for depressed rural women. This mixed methods community-engaged implementation project promotes sustainable mental health support through collaboration with rural community health workers.