Background: Stigma has been shown to have a significant influence on help-seeking, adherence to treatment and social opportunities for those experiencing depression. There is a need for studies which examine how the stigma of depression intersects with responses to depression.
Methods: 161 telephone interviews with people experiencing depressive symptoms, derived from a longitudinal cohort study, were sampled on the basis of their perceptions of stigma around depression. Interview transcripts were searched for references to stigma and analysed thematically. The frequency of the themes was calculated and cross-referenced, producing a meta-theme matrix.
Results: Stigma was closely linked to ideas about responsibility for causation and/or continuation of depressive symptoms. Stigmatized individuals felt compelled to take steps to develop their resilience including drawing on existing support networks and expanding on positive emotions and personal strengths in order to counteract this stigma. However, such strategies were burdensome for some. These participants gained relief from relinquishing their personal responsibility.
Limitations: The data were briefer than many interview studies. This narrowed its interpretation, but allowed a large sample of participants.
Conclusions: When considering how to tailor therapies for those experiencing depressive symptoms, health professionals should consider the interaction of stigma with coping strategies. Many individuals can build on existing relationships and personal strengths to develop resilience, some however need to first relinquish the expectation of having sufficient pre-existing resilience within themselves.
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