Sarah Guy, a doctoral student in the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin, and a 2016 recipient of the Frances Fowler Wallace Award from the Hogg Foundation, has recently completed her dissertation, “Understanding Women’s Perspectives of Mental Health Literacy Regarding Postpartum Depression.” The study analyzes the ways that women apply their understanding of postpartum depression to their own personal experiences of the disorder.
Frances Fowler Wallace, the award’s namesake, was married to John Forsythe Wallace, who served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives and the State Board of Control. She died July 18, 1972, in Austin at the age of 80. The Wallace Award provides partial support for doctoral students’ dissertation research on “the cause, treatment, cure, and prevention of mental disease, mental illness, and mental disorders,” as directed in her will. The award provides up to $1,500 for research-related expenses.
We talked to Sarah Guy about her research.
Tell us about yourself. At what point did you decide to make nursing your academic specialty, and what influenced that decision?
As a teenager I became very interested in the anatomy and physiology of the human body, especially the miraculous changes that occur during pregnancy. I was able to witness a birth and was so moved by the experience that I decided I wanted to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife.
Your dissertation is titled, “Understanding Women’s Perspectives of Mental Health Literacy Regarding Postpartum Depression.” What questions are you trying to answer with this work?
I am seeking to understand what women know and believe about the condition of postpartum depression as they experience it in their daily lives. In particular, I want to know more about how they recognize that they have the disorder and what they do to relieve the symptoms that often cause much suffering for the entire family.
What led to your taking a professional interest in this particular topic?
While taking care of women during their postpartum check-ups at a local clinic, I realized that many of them were suffering in silence with the symptoms of postpartum depression but not telling healthcare providers about their experiences. I also noticed that women who received a diagnosis of postpartum depression had great difficulty accessing the mental healthcare system and went for months without professional treatment.
How do you think your research methods and approach will help you to answer the questions that you’re posing?
I am using qualitative research methods to interview women directly about their experiences. I feel the perspectives of women enduring the symptoms of postpartum depression are important to understand and I want their voices to be heard, especially by healthcare providers.
Are there any suggested readings you can recommend for those who might be interested in learning more about this topic?
Sure, I would recommend the following journal article:
Guy, S., Sterling, B., Walker, L., & Harrison, T. (2014). Mental health literacy and postpartum depression: A qualitative description of views of lower income women. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 28, 256-262.