Legitimising depression: community perspectives and the help-seeking continuum

Andrew Simon Gilbert, Josefine Antoniades, Zazie Bowen, Bianca Brijnath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article deploys a legitimacy framework to explore how Anglo-Australian and Indian-Australian community members living in Melbourne, Australia, interpret the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Examining community beliefs about depression illuminates the lay-discourses that people living with depression encounter when they disclose their experiences to others. Based on 10 focus groups with 77 community members from Indian-Australian and Anglo-Australian backgrounds, we deploy three frames of legitimacy through which depression is described: biomedical, situational, and moral. Indian-Australian participants were less likely to see depression as a legitimate biomedical condition, describing it primarily in situational terms often connected to migration experiences. Additionally, Indian-Australians often described succumbing to depression as a sign of individual weakness, suggesting that disclosing depression within their community risks loss of moral legitimacy. Anglo-Australians more readily recognised the biomedical legitimacy of depression but offered lay-critiques of medical diagnoses and treatment with antidepressants. In cases of long-term depression, there was a potential loss of moral legitimacy within both communities. The findings illustrate variation in the ways and degrees to which depression and its treatment are socially legitimised across two communities, which manifests in a continuum of diverse approaches to help-seeking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-306
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Sociology Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2019


  • Anglo-Australian
  • Australia
  • depression
  • help-seeking continuum
  • Indian-Australian
  • legitimacy

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