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Houston, Texas

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Removing Disability Disparities in Women's Health, 2005, 1:3


Just the facts!

  • Women with physical limitations or disabilities may be more than twice as likely to experience depression as other women.
  • Women with physical limitations often do not receive treatment for depression. This is especially true for Hispanic women with physical limitations who may face language and cultural barriers to getting treatment.
  • Depression is a highly treatable condition. Without treatment, symptoms of depression can last for months, or even years.
  • Depression is not the same as a short case of the blues. It often interferes with normal functioning and causes pain and distress to those who experience it and those who care about them.
  • Depression is associated with abuse. Not all depressed women are abused, but many abused women are depressed. Abuse leads to a sense of powerlessness, which can cause depression.

When to seek help:

Seek professional help when your depression becomes severe, interferes with your ability to participate in your usual activities, lasts a long time, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself.

Tips from women with physical limitations:

  • Don't keep your depressed thoughts and feelings inside. Find someone to talk to about your depression. It could be someone in your family, a friend, a spiritual advisor, or a mental health counselor.
  • Exercise or any movement can help with bad moods. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  • Get out of the house more often! If you stay indoors and alone all the time, you can get more depressed.
  • Talk back to your negative thoughts! When you feel you can't cope, tell yourself that you're going to have good days and ones that aren't so good.
  • Positive thoughts can help heal pain and shame.
  • Stay away from "friends" who bring you down, and spend time with people who bring you joy, comfort, and support.
  • Remind yourself that you have the right to be safe and free from physical and emotional abuse.

Depression or Disability?

It's often difficult to know if certain physical symptoms are part of your physical limitation or signs of depression. Examples include:

  • Significant changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fatigue, loss of energy

Other symptoms of depression include:

  • Empty feeling, guilt, and an "I don't care" attitude
  • No longer finding pleasure in things that you used to enjoy
  • Pessimistic, negative thinking
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Low self-esteem or self-image
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities

If you are a woman with a physical limitation who:

  • has a low-income or lives in poverty
  • has limitations in three or more daily activities
  • experiences chronic pain
  • has high levels of stress
  • has low self-esteem
  • lacks access to health and mental health services
  • lacks social support and/or adequate personal assistance
  • experiences abuse or violence
  • is experiencing hormonal change events such as childbirth

...then you may be at higher risk for depression.

Where to get help:

For help with depression, check the yellow pages under "mental health," "suicide prevention," "crisis intervention services," "hotlines," or "hospitals," for phone numbers and addresses.

If you are in crisis and need immediate help, call your doctor, a local hospital, or dial 911.

You may also call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information:

National Institute on Mental Health, 1-800-421-4211;

National Women's Health Resource Center, 1-877-986-9472;

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Houston Endowment, Inc.

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