Women are two to three times more likely to experience depression than men, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports. The gender gap is probably influenced by hormonal fluctuations and psychosocial factors, including the stress of multiple work and family responsibilities, sexual and physical abuse, sexual discrimination, lack of social support, and traumatic life experiences.
Gayathri Ramprasad, now a 46-year-old social entrepreneur in Portland, Oregon, spent many years mired in severe depression but kept her suicidal thoughts a secret from even her closest friends. At one point, Ramprasad thought a job might make her better, so she found work as a software administrator. But the pressure of the facade she wore was too exhausting. “I’d never worked in the high-tech industry and knew nothing about my job or what I was supposed to do—yet I was in a position of authority!” she says.
Around five million employed American women experience depression each year. According to a survey by the National Mental Health Association and the American Medical Women’s Association, 83 percent find it to be the top barrier to workplace success. The women identified common depressive behaviors, such as avoiding co-workers and missing or avoiding work, as holding them back from success. Eighty-nine percent who quit or lost their job blamed their depression, and close to one-third of survey participants said their condition “completely interfered” with their ability to complete their job requirements.
Overall, employed women are less likely to report depression, says Rena Repetti, Ph.D, professor of clinical health psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), at least partly because healthier women are more likely to find work and keep it. Ramprasad’s suicidal depression, for example, drove her home again after just six months of work. For others, working outside the home can provide a buffer against depression, says Eve Wood, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona. Repetti agrees. For women with supportive relationships who don’t feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, a fulfilling job, which brings positive relationships and improves self-esteem, can help reduce depressive symptoms or even prevent their onset, she says.
Where To Find Help
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Get It Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track by Julie Fast and John Preston