Depression research explores treatment for eastern Kentucky women

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The death of actor Robin Williams has re-ignited the conversation about depression in the U.S. It's an illness that 1 in 10 Americans are living with on a daily basis.

In Kentucky, the darkness of depression is very real. Some new research at the University of Kentucky is helping women open up about an all to real illness.

"I know what its like to be in a room full of people and still feel alone," Shelley Spillman, the news editor at Anderson News, said.

Her words are what so many can't or won't say.

"I too have suffered from the cold metallic grip of depression," Spillman said.

As news editor of the Anderson News , it's Shelley Spillman's job to write about others, but when she penned a piece about her own struggle with depression it was her way of giving those who can't talk about it a voice.

"I think its very important to keep this dialogue open because for some reason we are conditioned not to talk about this. We are not open about it, its just sad to me," Spillman said.

23% of Kentuckians experience depression, but in places like small towns the numbers are exploding, especially among women.

In southeastern Kentucky, more than 29% of adults have been diagnosed with depression, rates are even higher among low income women where 34% are dealing with it compared to 22% who are not poor.

"Southeastern Kentucky has so much more depression, but we don't really know that much about what its like for the people who experience it," Claire Snell-Rood, a postdoctoral fellow in the UK College of Medicine's Department of Behavioral Science, said.

Snell-Rood is trying to understand depression in women and, more importantly, why they don't seek treatment.

"In a lot of cases we found many women didn't think it was a problem that they could get help for." Snell-Rood said.

This latest research among women in Appalachia is based on the fact that eastern Kentucky already has extremely high rates of depression.

"We decided to talk with 28 women with the idea that if we had them describe their own experiences then we would know what are all the different factors," Snell-Rood said.

Some factors included the stress of finances as well as the pressure of providing for and keeping families together. Its also a region where some feel that mental healthcare is lacking.

"There is a lot of frustration that the women I talked to that experienced in trying to get care. They wanted good care, and felt that there were times they had people who were apathetic," Snell-Rood said.

That's why Shelley Spillman opened up about her battle, to let others know there is hope.

"You can make it out of this and one day the clouds will part," Spillman said.

For every woman who comes forward to get help there is another who doesn't and that's what this research hopes to stop.

"I think talking about depression is a really good step so that people really believe depression is an illness and its an illness that can be treated," Snell-Rood said.

More studies need to be done, but right now the goal is to find a way to make depression care more accessible to areas of the our state where mental health care is lacking. Snell-Rood says many of the women who came forward said they did so because they just wanted to help keep another woman from experiencing the same pain.

October 10th is National Depressions Screening Day.