Depression Therapy Worked for Some Low Income Mothers

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Depression in low income minority mothers may be successfully treated with therapy

November 14, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) The arrival of a new baby can be a joyous occasion but, for many women, it is the beginning of a battle with depression. Low income and minority mothers may find help in therapy.

Researchers recently found that identifying depression in low income, minority mothers, followed by short-term in-home therapy that focuses on relationships, may provide greater benefits than general community services.

Improvement was seen despite personal difficulties ranging from poverty to abuse. 

The researchers concluded that screening this high-risk population is the first step to reducing depression among these mothers and their families.

"Find free therapy options available for depression in your community."

Sheree Toth, PhD, executive director of the University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center, was lead author of this study.

The study looked at 128 women, aged 18 to 40, who had a 12-month-old infant and were diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). Of these women, 78 percent fell below the US Department of Health and Human Services definition of poverty, while 96 percent met the Women, Infant and Children criteria, which is 185 percent of the poverty level.

The women were placed into one of two groups. The first group received 14 one-hour interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) sessions with a highly experienced psychotherapist, often in-home. This group included 99 participants.

The second group included the remaining 29 mothers who received referrals to helpful services normally available in their area, also known as enhanced community standard (ECS). Neither group received any form of antidepressants or other medication.

Selection began April 8, 2004, with recurring assessments continuing until June 14, 2009.

Despite the high risk of depression associated with minority mothers, researchers have failed to account for this demographic of the population within existing studies on depression. In the current study, the researchers hoped to show the potential effectiveness of IPT within this disadvantaged group.

Adjusted for noncompliance over the period of the study, mothers in the IPT group saw much greater reduction in the severity of their depression symptoms. Women in the ECS group saw minor improvement in their level of depression and remained above the level classified as MDD after treatment.

Both groups started with an average score of 27 on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scale. The IPT group saw significant improvement and finished the study with an average score of 9.62 on the BDI scale. The ECS group, however, saw a final average score of 21.16 on the BDI scale. MDD diagnosis begins at a BDI of 19.

This study showed that IPT was effective in treating depression in impoverished minority women with young children. This suggests that efforts to screen low income and minority mothers for depression and educating them about mental health care and its importance could improve the lives of many people.

According to Cliff Hamrick, LPC, a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Austin, Texas, "An important implication of this study is a reminder that even happy events, such as the birth of a child, starting school, or beginning a new job, can be just as stressful as negative events."

"This stress can trigger depression. But, because this depression is brought on by positive events in one's life, some people feel guilty about the depression and become reluctant to seek help," Hamrick told dailyRx News.

This study was published on November 8 in Development and Psychopathology.

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.