Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Aaron Buseh

Committee Members

Patricia Stevens, Sharon Keigher, Amy Coenen, Julia Snethen


Depression, Mental Health, Recovery


In the United States, depression affects many Americans at different levels. Depression among women is a major public health problem. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness), about 1 in 5 women develop depression at some point in their lives, and are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression. Much of the research about depression in women are quantitative studies aimed mostly at collecting epidemiological or survey data that focus on rates of mental illness, while not taking into account the qualitative subjective and contextual illness perspectives of women living with depression.

The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives of women living with depression in the context of their daily lives including (a) their experiences of symptoms and sequelae; (b) their cumulative exposure to social adversity; and (c) their efforts at recovery in the context of their larger sociocultural and sociopolitical environments.

Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with women (N = 17) who self-identified as having experienced depression at some time in their lives, to learn about their experiences living with and recovering from depression. Participants were recruited from a private psychological counseling practice and peer-led mental health recovery-focused organizations, and were interviewed twice, 5 to 14 days apart, to add credibility to the study's findings. The transcripts of their illness narratives were analyzed using thematic analysis. .

Findings emerging from the analysis were clustered and into six broad themes: (a) Suffering Adversity in Childhood and Adolescence; (b) Shutting Down and Giving Up; (c) Isolation, Not Fitting In, and Social Stigma; (d) Managing Symptoms and Experiences with Healthcare; (e) Coming to Terms: Facing It and Working Through It; and (f) Becoming a Resource Person: Connecting, Learning, and Giving Back.