We sought to understand how African American women’s beliefs regarding depression and depression care are influenced by racism, violence, and social context.
We conducted a focus group study using a community-based participatory research approach. Participants were low-income African American women with major depressive disorder and histories of violence victimization.
Thirty women participated in 4 focus groups. Although women described a vicious cycle of violence, depression, and substance abuse that affected their health, discussions about health care revolved around their perception of racism, with a deep mistrust of the health care system as a “White” system. The image of the “strong Black woman” was seen as a barrier to both recognizing depression and seeking care. Women wanted a community-based depression program staffed by African Americans that addressed violence and drug use.
Although violence and drug use were central to our participants’ understanding of depression, racism was the predominant issue influencing their views on depression care. Providers should develop a greater appreciation of the effects of racism on depression care. Depression care programs should address issues of violence, substance use, and racism.