Symposium papers integrate specific qualitative methodologies (including constructivist grounded theory, phenomenology, and interpretive in-depth interviewing) which offer women's perspectives in depth and nuanced detail. Low-income women are emphasized by all authors. While individual presentations outline both the process and outcomes associated with multiple research projects, the symposium as a whole illustrates the evolution of research in this field that specifically targets populations who are disproportionately affected and currently underserved.
The symposium begins with a focus on maternal identity, offering a shift in perspective to incorporate conflicting views of self, the externalization of stigma towards “others,” and the ultimate framing of depression as an entity standing apart from women's authentic sense of self. Research on the referral process underscores life stressors that create difficulty distinguishing “depression” from “normal life,” the presence of cultural “taboos” and suspicion with the mental health system; these reinforce the importance of deliberate trust building. Next, research regarding the trusting relationship of doulas illustrates an innovative method to bridge gaps of instrumental, emotional, and informational support between women and the health care system. Research on women's psychopharmacology decision-making is presented next, addressing the balance between desire to enjoy pregnancy and engage in high quality parenting, which may be offset by the challenges of psychiatric medication use during pregnancy and the postpartum. Finally, the symposium concludes with a focus on using low-income, pregnant adolescents' perceptions of depression, mental health treatment, and practical, psychological and cultural barriers to care to develop personalized mental health care engagement and retention strategies.
This symposium highlights the most current, culturally relevant methodologies examining maternal depression and the well-being of women and children at greatest risk. Papers within the symposium offer novel approaches in constructing services, designing culturally relevant interventions, and effectively evaluating innovative programs through rigorous research. Together, the symposium informs a building research agenda and promotes knowledge sharing among an expanding network of social work researchers in maternal and infant mental health.