Speaking of women's 'nameless misery': The everyday construction of depression in Australian women's magazines
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In this article we examine the tensions between current Australian depression policy directions and lay beliefs about depression as constructed and circulated through popular media, at a time when mental health education discourses promoting 'depression literacy' (Parslow & Jorm, 2002) are widening the boundaries of what is understood to be depression. Drawing upon research into articles on depression published in two women's magazines before and after the promulgation of the National Action Plan for Depression, we identify the cultural context of certain lay beliefs about depression as articulated through personal and celebrity stories, advice columns and resource links. The depression literacy literature privileges biomedical and psychological expertise in explaining depression and promoting help-seeking behaviour. In contrast, the magazine discourses foreground an individualising discourse of depression as a problem of self-management. They emphasise women's abilities to manage difficult life events and to build informal supportive relationships, which reinforces dominant notions of feminine identity as concerned with balancing competing demands and roles. We critique the national policy on depression literacy as taking insufficient account of women's belief structures, which leads, for example, to a limited analysis of stigma. We also critique policy for not engaging sufficiently with the gendered nature of depression and its relation to social inequities, something the magazines replicate.
Social Science and Medicine
Copyright 2005 Elsevier. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.