Malaysian Moslem Mothers’ Experience of Depression and Service Use
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Standard psychiatric criteria for depression developed in the United States and United Kingdom are increasingly used worldwide to establish the prevalence of clinical disorders and to help develop services. However, these approaches are rarely sensitive to local and cultural expressions of symptoms or beliefs about treatment. Mismatch between diagnostic criteria and local understanding may result in underreporting of depression and underutilization of services. Little such research has been conducted in Malaysia, despite the acknowledged high rate of depression and low access to services. This study examines depression in Moslem Malay women living in Johor Bahru, Southern Peninsular Malaysia, to explore depression symptoms using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. The 61 women interviewed were selected on the basis of high General Health Questionnaire scores from a large questionnaire survey of 1,002 mothers. The illustrative analysis looks at descriptions of depressed mood, self-depreciation and suicidal ideation, as well as attitudes toward service use. The women gave full and open descriptions of their emotional symptoms, easily recognizable by standard symptom categories, although somatic symptoms were commonly included, and the spiritual context to understanding depression was also prevalent. However, few women had knowledge about treatment or sought medical services, although some sought help from local spiritual healers. Attending to such views of depression can help develop services in Malaysia.