The Experience of Depression among Black and Minority Ethnic Women in the United Kingdom : An Interpretative Phenomenological Study

Robinson, Sabrina (2016) The Experience of Depression among Black and Minority Ethnic Women in the United Kingdom : An Interpretative Phenomenological Study. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Identity and health status have been linked in the extant literature, but the lived experience of depression in Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women in the UK is an under researched phenomenon. This study therefore aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experience of depression in a small group of UK based BME women using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), affording the ability to describe, explore and provide an idiographic analysis of this lived experience.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of five BME women with experience of depression. Participants provided detailed accounts of how they made sense of their experience. Interviews were audio-recorded and verbatim transcripts of the interviews were analysed using IPA. In keeping with the underpinnings of IPA the researcher’s personal and epistemological reflexivity is embedded throughout to demonstrate greater transparency and demonstrate how IPA was applied in practice.

The analysis produced two master themes; ‘Cultural Expectations and Depression: “I just need to be me”’ and ‘The Nature of Depression: Agency, Façades and Coping’. The first theme captures how identity conflicts led to isolation for the participants, heightened stress and exacerbated or brought on depression. The experience of being a minority was considered and how this can cause stress, impacting on the ability to cope with adversity and influence perceptions of mental health. The second theme explored perceptions of the nature of depression and the stress of managing physical complaints. Participants adopted a range of coping strategies such as presenting with façades and resilience which impacted on help-seeking behaviours, diagnosis and management of their depression. Discussions around experiences of taking antidepressants served to highlight the importance of the understanding of medication for lay individuals and their implications for treatment adherence.

The central finding of this research is that the experience of depression for BME women in the UK is heavily influenced by identity, cultural factors, minority status and pressures of societal norms. This research expands on the extant literature on the relationships between stress, coping and health, illuminating the essence of the lived experience of depression. The recommendations of this research include the need for health practitioners to better understand variabilities in the experience of depression among BME women in the UK (considering ethnic identity and culture) and the need for them to seek to work with individuals in a co-productive way. There is a need for the development of high quality, personalised services which engage with harder to reach communities along with health promotion campaigns and health services to support enhancing the health literacy of BME women with depression.

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