Women and Depression: Recovery and Resistance

Women and Depression: Recovery and Resistance

Women and Depression: Recovery and Resistance

Women and Depression: Recovery and Resistance


Women and Depression: Recovery and Resistance takes a welcome look at women s experiences of living well after depression. Lafrance argues that the social construction of femininity is dangerous for women s health, and ultimately, central to their experiences of depression. Beginning with a critical examination of the ways in which women s depression is a product of the social, political, and interpersonal realities of their everyday lives, the analysis moves on to explore an often ignored aspect of women s experience how women manage to recover and be well after depression.

The book draws on extensive in-depth interviews with women who have been depressed, as well as on previous research and on analyses of representations of women s health practices in the media. In this way Lafrance critically examines how women negotiate and actively resist hegemonic discourses of femininity in their struggles to recover from depression and be well. Threaded throughout the analysis is the exploration of a variety of subjects related to women s distress and health, including:

  • negotiating identity
  • the medicalization of women s misery
  • women s narratives of resistance
  • the material and discursive context of women s self-care

In exploring the taken-for-granted aspects of women s experiences, Lafrance sheds light on the powerful but often invisible constraints on women s wellbeing, and the multiple and creative ways in which they resist these constraints in their everyday lives. These insights will be of interest to students and scholars of psychology, sociology, women s studies, social work, counseling, and nursing.



This book is about women’s stories of moving out of depression and striving to become and live well. I came to this subject through my interest in women’s mental health and a discontent with the fact that the bulk of research in this area focuses on pathology and illness rather than health and well-being. I believe that while an understanding of women’s suffering is essential, attention to the ways in which women become and live well is also vitally important. Thus, with a view to better understanding women’s health more broadly, I wanted to explore the ways in which women talk about ‘recovering’ from depression and nurturing their own health and well-being in their everyday lives (I take up the term ‘recovery’ at the end of the chapter). Further, I wanted to examine women’s health narratives for their personal, social, and political meanings and implications.

Feminist scholars have firmly situated women’s depression as a consequence of patriarchal society (Jack, 1991; Stoppard, 2000; Stoppard & McMullen, 2003; Ussher, 1991, 2006). And, while very many women do become depressed, many also ‘recover’ and emerge from their despair. Thus, at the heart of this book is a concern for the ways in which women describe and experience ‘recovery’ from depression. Starting from a feminist, social constructionist perspective, I explore women’s narratives of recovery and well-being through an analysis of interviews I conducted with women in two related research projects. In the first, I interviewed women who self-identified as having ‘recovered’ from or overcome depression in some way. In describing recovery from depression, these women recurrently pointed to both the importance of beginning to attend to their own needs and pleasure, and their difficulties in doing so. In talking to these women, I began to wonder about the possibility of other ways in which women might come to attend to their own health and well-being, other than through the pathway of crisis and depression. I then conducted a second study in which I interviewed another group of women who self-identified as taking care of themselves in their everyday lives. Through an analysis of these sets of interviews, in conjunction with an examination of the literature on women’s mental health and of representations of women’s health practices in the . . .

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