Nursing Research Focused on Preventing Depression for Women

Rahshida Atkins, assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

Rahshida Atkins, assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden

For mothers suffering from depression and living in poverty, getting help is no easy matter. “A lot of them have no way of dealing with mental and emotional problems,” said Rahshida Atkins, an assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

Atkins, who earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees on the Rutgers–Newark campus, taught at Rutgers–Camden in 2013 and returned as a full-time faculty member in fall 2017. Her dissertation research focused on depression in single black mothers, but Atkins expanded her focus during her postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and now at Rutgers–Camden. She is exploring the relationship between depression and physical activity, with the goal of identifying and preventing depression in socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers of all ethnicities. “If we can help moms identify and manage their depressive symptoms, they are better able to parent their children and remain productive members of society,” said Atkins, who frequently publishes research papers on the topic in academic journals.

One effective strategy to prevent depression, said Atkins, is exercise. “Even small increases in physical activity can reduce depressive symptoms,” she said. “My goal is to get disadvantaged women, who are at risk for depression, physically active. We are tackling mental health disorders via prevention rather than a limited focus on treatment alone.”

While completing her postdoctoral fellowship, Atkins conducted several focus groups with urban residents who received substantial mental health benefits due to the positive social environment, enhancement in self-confidence, and the social engagement that physical activity participation provided. Atkins is extending this research to the Camden area by conducting individual interviews at community organizations and agencies. “We have to focus on the community voices and what their needs are,” Atkins said.

Posted in: 2018 Spring, On Campus

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