Speaking of women's 'nameless misery': The everyday construction of depression in Australian women's magazines

Maureen Gattuso, Simone Fullagar, Ilena Young

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    In this article we examine the tensions between current Australian depression policy directions and lay beliefs about depression as constructed and circulated through popular media at a time when mental health education discourses are also promoting 'depression literacy' [Parslow & Jorm, 2002.Medical Journal of Australia, 177(7), 117'121]. Drawing upon research into articles on depression published in two women's magazines before and after the promulgation of the National Action Plan for Depression [Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000. National action plan for depression. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care'Mental Health and Special Programs Branch] we identify the cultural context of certain lay beliefs about depression as articulated through personal and celebrity stories, advice columns and resource links. The depression literacy literature privileges biomedical and psychological expertise in explaining depression and promoting help-seeking behaviour. In contrast, the magazine discourses foreground an individualising discourse of depression as a problem of self-management while also referring to biomedical expertise. They emphasise women's abilities to manage difficult life events and to build informal supportive relationships, which reinforces dominant notions of feminine identity as concerned with balancing competing gender demands. We critique the national policy on depression literacy as taking insufficient account of women's belief structures, which leads, for example, to a limited analysis of stigma. We also critique policy for not engaging sufficiently with the gendered nature of depression and its relation to social inequities, something the magazines replicate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1640-1648
    Number of pages9
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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