UK College of Social Work Study Examines Effects of Mental Health Literacy in Women Affected by Postpartum Depression

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Results of a new study from the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky suggest increased mental health literacy and decreased perceptions of stigma can improve professional help-seeking in women experiencing postpartum depression. The study is published in Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Using self-reported data from 326 postpartum women in the US collected through Facebook and Reddit, researcher Aubrey Jones, PhD, of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work found that nearly 44% of participants had previously been treated for depression and 32.8% of participants had sought treatment since the birth of their child. Results of the study indicate that individuals with higher levels of perceived stigma are less likely to view professional help-seeking favorably. However, individuals with higher levels of mental health literacy are more likely to have a favorable attitude towards professional help-seeking. Favorable or unfavorable views of professional help-seeking can impact the likelihood that a woman experiencing postpartum depression seeks out and acquires treatment.

“I conducted this study because I have witnessed so many women deal with postpartum depression while being told it was normal,” said Dr. Jones. “Postpartum depression is common, but it shouldn’t be ‘the norm’ for mothers. We often have an exaggerated idea of what postpartum depression ‘looks likes’ but postpartum depression can be more subtle and manifests differently for each person and that can create confusion for parents.”

“While the participants in this study identified as women/mothers,” she continued, “it is important for everyone to know and understand that postpartum depression can affect all parents and to talk with your doctor or a mental health provider about your adjustment to parenthood.”

About the UK College of Social Work

For over 80 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work has been a leader in social work education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the College works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways. To learn more about the College of Social Work, visit socialwork.uky.edu.

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.