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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Study addresses how Mexican-American women cope with depression

Keeping busy or "doing" is a primary way to deal with depression for Mexican-American women, according to a preliminary study by Alison Druck, a nursing professor at New Mexico State University.

qualitative study, which included interviews of 20 Mexican-American women with varying backgrounds in Dona Ana County, indicated that these women deal with depression in many different ways, but found that 10 themes emerged as prevalent means for coping.

Druck said that "doing" could mean anything from housework to crafts to baking, but always involved activities that kept them busy. Other themes included work, giving to others or volunteering services.

Children were another factor in how the women coped. Druck said even the women who did not have children of their own had other children in their lives. Most of the women indicated that children comforted them, she said.

Some themes dealt with cultural issues such as "silence," because the women indicated they were taught not to share their feelings, she said. Crying was another coping method and always made them feel better, but more than half of the women indicated that they cried in private.

Talking and family support also emerged as factors, but the interviews indicated the women only talked to people they really trusted and it was not an easily acquired skill. Those who relied on support groups or prayer groups specified that they were usually one of the last in the group to open up, Druck said.

Fourteen of the women had sought medications in a primary health care setting, but only four continued using the medications, Druck said. "Many didn't like the way they were prescribed or how the medications made them feel and just never went back," she said. "It sometimes takes more than one try to get a depression medication that is effective for a person."

This base line study was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Center for Health Promotion Research (CHPR) at the University of Texas at Austin. The grant was one of several given by CHPR to junior nursing researchers working with large minority populations to assist them in developing research skills, Druck said.

Developing a community program where nurses can work with depressed women in the area is Druck's goal. "Eventually we want to figure out what will help in terms of a community program," she said. "We want the kind of community interventions that (Mexican-American women) would prefer and utilize."

As part of the newly formed Southwest Partnership Center for Nursing Research on Health Disparities, which will get started next month, Druck and other nursing faculty at New Mexico State will partner with researchers at UT-Austin. Druck's findings in this base line study will be used as she continues her research to include focus groups and designs possible intervention programs to assist Mexican-American women with depression.

Druck said there is a whole body of literature on coping with depression in various populations of women, but she could not find any studies about developing community interventions for depression with Mexican-American women.

She said women are twice as likely to be depressed as men and Mexico-born Mexican-American women report more depressive symptoms than U.S.-born men and women.

The 20 women who participated in Druck's study were between 22 and 76 years old. Their average age was 44 and their average annual income was $12,000. One-third of them were English speaking, one-third Spanish speaking and one-third bilingual. Education levels varied -- 15 percent had less than a seventh grade education, 15 percent had attended high school but had not graduated, 20 percent were high school graduates, 25 percent had attended college or technical classes, 20 percent had achieved a baccalaureate degree, and one held a master's degree.

About 70 percent were working at the time of the study. Thirty-five percent were married, 35 percent were single, 15 percent divorced and 15 percent widowed.