OBJECTIVE: To assess the meaning of depression in women diagnosed with the disorder, and the context of care given by the psychiatrists who follow them up. METHODS: Qualitative study performed in Embu, outskirt of São Paulo, between August 2002 and January 2003. Etnographic observation and in-depth interview were carried out with 16 women diagnosed with depression in primary care, and four psychiatrists. After exhaustive reading, data were grouped into categories and assessed. The assessment of outcomes was based on the concept of culture. RESULTS: Women interviewed are well aware of the disorder, and accept treatment based on medication. For psychiatrists, depression is a term understood by the common sense. All women interviewed identified the onset of the disease from a past event such as: death of a son, violent episodes connected with drug traffic, unemployment, and partners' aggressiveness. Violence was common in the every day life of the interviewed women both inside and outside their homes. CONCLUSIONS: For these women, depression is a way to express their feelings, such as unhappiness in a context of poverty and violence. Psychiatrists go beyond their clinical functions and play an important role on reorganizing the daily life of these women.
Depression; Health knowledge, attitudes, practice; Qualitative research; Mental health; Social anthropology; Women