Panelists discuss the effects of depression on low-income women with children.
Panelists discuss the effects of depression on low-income women with children.


(WOMENSENEWS)–Features of health reform will help more low-income women with children get vital mental-health treatment, according to a panelist at a Dec. 12 discussion organized by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. 

The overall expansion of mental-health coverage by the Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid expansion and State Health Insurance Exchanges–which six states have established and 14 states are in the process of establishing–all expand medical coverage to low-income women, helping them get the treatments they need, said Larke Huang, a senior administrator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
However, said Deborah Perry, associate professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development, says women’s options should expand beyond treatment to a continuum of services that include prevention and mood-management skills.
Watch the full video of the discussion here.
Almost 9 percent of low-income mothers with young children experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Urban Institute.
One-in-11 mothers with children up to the age of 5 have had a major depressive episode in the last year, about 750,00 women, said Marla McDaniel, senior research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Labor, Human Services and Population. About 70 percent of them had a severe impairment that affected their ability to function daily. Forty percent were ages 18-25; another 40 percent were 26-24. Fifty-nine percent were white, 15 percent black and 22 percent Latina. Forty percent were married and 40 percent never married.
Even though depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses, more than one-third of these women, about 40 percent, received no treatment. When treatment is received, about 10 percent of low-income mothers see a psychiatrist compared to 20 percent of high-income mothers. Forty-two percent of low-income mothers take prescription medication compared to 57 percent of high-income mothers.
Untreated parental depression poses a variety of risks for children and raises the likelihood of abuse and neglect. However, many low-income women cannot afford treatment and some see stigma and risks of losing children to Child Protective Services (CPS), a federal agency in many states that responds to reports of child abuse or neglect.
“Maternal depression is in the causable pathway around child abuse and neglect but we need to help women understand if they’re getting help that’s not going to be the reason CPS comes in and takes away their children,” said Perry.
Maggie Freleng is an editorial assistant for WeNews; she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.