Reviews of Silencing the Self Across Cultures: Depression and Gender in the Social World

 

Melba J T Vasquez, Ph.D., 2011 President Elect, American Psychological Association:

"I could not put down this highly interesting volume of essays that provides some of the most powerful and stunning insights into a reframing of women’s depression! It is a very impressive book that incorporates the voices of women from thirteen countries to demonstrate their experiences and understanding of depression. The exhaustion of depression is conceptualized in part as the energy it takes to silence the self. This silencing is the result of worldwide cultural constructions of gender, leading to the near epidemic rates of depression among women. Essentially, if you are in a culture that allows you to feel that your voice matters, then you feel that you as a person matter; a strong sense of self and strong voices result in less depression. Importantly, the insights are garnered from an outstanding and impressive group of international authors whose work is based on research from use of the Silencing the Self Scale (STSS). Thus, this work goes beyond theory to provide creative research that addresses women’s emotional distress and depression with convincing data. The Silencing the Self model integrates aspects of attachment theory, relational theories, and cognitive theories of depression to explain women’s vulnerability to depression, and also addresses the disadvantages for men as well. This is a most impressive volume on a theory of depression that encompasses not only biology but also the subjectivity of women from a variety of cultural perspectives in explaining a major, worldwide problem in public health. I strongly recommend this insightful book for all providers of health services as well as for educators and policy makers!

 

 

Michelle Fine, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology, Women’s Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center, CUNY:

"If we promise to be quiet, will you listen? There is a brilliant irony built into Silencing the Self Across Cultures. This delicious and provocative text is dedicated to theorizing the cross cultural dynamics of silencing even as it invites us to hear women across time and place voice desire, pain, void and yearning. The essays span the globe, tracing the circuits of women’s depression across cultures, with a critical eye on the economics of depression, the politics of oppression, the thin membrane separating/joining patriarchy and women’s smothered inner voices, and then the assemblages of pharmaceuticals, medicalization and patriarchy aligned to shut her up; I mean calm her. We live in times of enormous human insecurity, where depression defines our collective economic and psychological state. And in both senses of the term, women suffer most. It is breathtaking to learn that, "women who reported that when in conflict with their spouse they usually or always kept their feelings to themselves (self silencing) had over four times the risk of dying during the 10 year follow up compared to women who always showed their feelings." (Eaker and Kelly-Hayes). As the most existential expression of privatization, self silencing obscures and protects structural policies and interpersonal relations of oppression, funneling both the problem and the puddle of despair centrally into the bodies of women. And yet this volume refuses naïve biologism or individualism. The writers collectively and with talent insist that we listen to the women to understand from where depression drip feeds onto women’s souls. The authors listen to women with a methodological tuning fork, precise and sensitive to women and context, and they read women’s depression like a smoke alarm on cultural abuses of power. In the caring and delicate hands of Jack and Ali, women’s narrations of depression signal a global call for justice and gendered human rights.

 

 

Zindel V. Segal, PhD, Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Studies and Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto:

"A vivid and scholarly portrayal of how gender and cultural influence interact to shape the expression of mood disorder."

 

 

Arthur Kleinman, MD, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University, and Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry, Harvard University Medical School:

"Silencing the Self Across Cultures demonstrates the importance of self -- silencing in the lives of women (and men) in many societies. The relationship to depression is useful for clinicians and researchers, and shows a means of getting at clinically relevant cultural information in a disciplined and practical way."

 

 

Anthony J. Marsella, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii:

"It all began in the early 1980s when the authors and their colleagues were studying the narratives of young girls coming of age. This early exploration of voice, relationship, and being among adolescent girls, now culminates in the present volume, perhaps the most powerful and poignant account of the silencing of women’s voices across time and culture that has been published. Within its 22 chapters and 500 pages, there unfolds a story -- a documenting -- an analysis -- of the powerful forces that shape and suppress the voice and being of women in our times. The consequences of this for women’s health and well being, especially depressive disorders among women around the world, is eloquently told in each chapter, leading the reader on a journey of discovery of the myriad forces that shape identity, gender, and womanhood. There is no richer nor fuller account of the complex pathways that women must negotiate and master to survive and to thrive in our times than "Silencing the Self Across Cultures: Depression and Gender in the Social World" by Dana Crowley Jack and Alisha Ali. It is a book that informs. It is a book that enlightens. It is a book to be treasured, and to be remembered long after it has been read and placed on the shelf."

 

 

Lisa A. Goodman, PhD, Professor, Department of Counseling and Developmental Psychology, Boston College:

"In the face of a medical establishment that views and treats depression as primarily a problem of faulty neurochemistry, this compelling book argues persuasively (and with solid evidence) for the powerful role of oppression in shaping women’s mental health. Dana Jack and Alisha Ali have brought together an impressive group of scholars who use the lens of self-silencing theory to reveal the ways in which women across the world become depressed as they attempt to avoid conflict and maintain relationships even at the expense of voice and self. From empirical and theoretical perspectives, the authors not only illuminate the subjective experience and far reaching consequences of women’s self-silencing, but also illustrate a process of inquiry that integrates multiple methods, disciplines, and levels of analysis within a single organizing frame. What a stunning achievement! This volume is required reading for mental health providers, scholars, and activists interested in understanding and improving women’s lives."