Browsing by Author "Laitinen, Irmeli"

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  • Laitinen, Irmeli (Helsingfors universitet, 2008)
    Traditionally feminist scholars envisaged that feminist research should be ‘on, by and for women’. The Women and Depression Project’s focus is ‘on’ depressed women but includes implicitly the part men and the patriarchal welfare state play in their depression; ‘written’ ‘by’ depressed women who are the subjects and active participants and whose depressed voices need to be heard and ‘for’ depressed women who have the potential to use their work in groups to deal effectively with their personal feelings and social situations. The study was designed to engage depressed women in feminist therapeutic action research and to develop professionally guided self-help groups in a 10 session programme in the statutory and non-statutory sectors in Finland. I had a dual role as a psychotherapist and feminist researcher. This dual role provided two foci: to present (as a feminist researcher) the authentic voices of depressed women in these groups and to demonstrate (as a psychotherapist) how the group process had an effect on these women’s lives. Two questions guided the research process: Is it possible for depressed women who have been dealt with as objects of treatment to become active subjects in their own healing? How do Finnish women experience depression? Embedded in the WDP were multiple ways of gathering research from members of the group as well as therapeutic tools with elements of self-help, consciousness raising and group psychotherapy. While the project had a dual focus, the findings reveal that women became empowered to understand themselves and believe in their potential as social individuals through their participation in the WDP groups. In the long term, they altered their feelings and relationships to themselves and their environment as well as key embodied activities. Additionally, the findings also suggest that depression may be a consequence of invisible gendered tensions in a women friendly welfare state and reveal a type of ‘welfare depression’. According to Allardt's welfare typology, these women were somewhat secure in their "welfare having" (i.e. physical health), but lacked in their "being" (i.e. need for emotional well-being) and "loving" (i.e. wanting better personal relationships). If a new understanding of women and depression is to develop, it must explicitly include ideas on how depression is shaped at the public and private interface as well as how distress and well-being may have cultural as well as gendered variations. For depressed women, voicing long-silenced experiences can play a crucial part in their empowerment and healing. The type of women friendly care practices generated by professionally led self-help groups enabled this process to begin at least for depressed women in Finland.