Our congregational toolkit provides information, tools and resources that will enable you to offer depression awareness programming in your congregation and community. This toolkit will help guide you as you consider the distinct types of programming and choose the most suitable methods to disseminate information. Before planning your event or activity, keep in mind the following:
- What are you trying to achieve? (e.g., increase awareness of depression symptoms)
- What is your targeted audience? (e.g., youth and their families)
- When and where will your activity be held? (e.g., immediately after service in the social hall)
- Should you partner with other organizations? (e.g., NAMI, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- How will you promote the event? (e.g., bulletin announcement, social media)
- How will you measure success? (e.g., survey, follow-up session)
Suggestions for Congregational Programming
When organizing your event, keep in mind that the two key messages of your depression awareness program should be:
- Depression should be viewed as a medical condition, just like hypertension or diabetes.
- There are effective treatments for depression.
The following are suggestions for congregational programming, and feel free to come up with other ideas — you know your congregation/community best.
- Raise your congregation’s awareness of depression by placing information about the symptoms, prevalence and treatment of depression in congregational bulletins and mailings. Special attention should be given to the encouraging information about effective treatments for depression.
- Publish the telephone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) and other phone numbers or places to visit for immediate assistance.
- Help people recognize what depression looks like and understand the tremendous impact it can have.
- Provide encouragement and guidance about help if people believe they or a loved one might be depressed.
- Treatment options
- Local resources
- When to consult with a family physician or a mental health professional
- Provide more extensive educational materials.
- Recruit speakers to talk about important perspectives on depression.
- Respected leaders of your congregation who can emphasize that depression is a common disorder that does not reflect weakness or moral failure
- Representatives from organizations that advocate on behalf of those with depression and other mental health conditions (e.g., NAMI, Mental Health America)
- Mental health professionals who can talk about diagnosis and treatment
- People who have had depression and are willing to share their experiences (e.g., NAMI in Our Own Voice, a program offered by many NAMI affiliates)
Connect people to groups in the community in which people who are directly or indirectly impacted by depression can share their stories and talk with others who are facing similar challenges.
When to Plan a Congregational Event
National Health Observances (NHOs) are special days, weeks or months dedicated to raising awareness about important health topics and supporting one another. Educational events held during NHOs can create positivity and empowerment for people living with health conditions and for their loved ones. The following are some examples of NHOs and awareness months that are suitable for congregational depression awareness programs.
Mental Health America designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949 to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness and to reduce the stigma surrounding it.
- Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 7 raises awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and shows that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development. Obtain more information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or the American Psychological Association.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month addresses topics including the many treatment options and how they can help people with PTSD have a higher quality of life. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Formally recognized in June 2008, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was created to bring attention to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States. Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.
During September, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
- World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, is a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.
- During National Suicide Prevention Week, which is the Monday through Sunday that includes World Suicide Prevention Day, resources and stories are shared and suicide prevention awareness is promoted.
Get resources and materials to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
This observance creates awareness regarding depression and the need for accessible and affordable mental health screenings.
- Mental Illness Awareness Week, started in 1990 by Congress and observed the first week of every October, is dedicated to spreading awareness and education about mental illness.
- National Depression Screening Day is an initiative that connects the public with behavioral health screenings, helps teach people the signs of depression and connects those in need with nearby resources. Educational, not diagnostic, the screenings help people determine if they have symptoms associated with depression or other behavioral health conditions and if they should seek help. Access a free, anonymous and confidential depression screening.
- National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding is Oct. 4. Mental illness netwrks and faith leaders are urged to work together to recognize and prepare for this day in a way that works best for each faith community. The prayers and actions of both faith communities and secular organizations (e.g. NAMI, DBSA) can support mental health in America. Through spiritual guidance, many individuals and communities find healing and recovery. See examples of activities, prayers and invocations that can offer hope for people touched by mental illness.
- World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, has been recognized since 1992 in over 150 countries worldwide to educate, advocate against stigma, and promote awareness of mental health education and resources in communities.
As you plan congregational programs, please be aware that some people affected by depression may not feel comfortable attending a program that is focused exclusively on the condition. To recognize and respect their wishes while providing them with information, it is recommended that your program be part of a regularly scheduled group meeting or activity that people attend regardless of the topic. Another option is to focus the program more broadly, perhaps covering stress as well as depression. Be sure to create a welcoming, supportive, safe and nonjudgmental environment by taking the following steps:
- Let people know it’s OK to talk about mental health.
- Discuss mental health with an approach that supports prevention, treatment and recovery.
- Encourage people experiencing mental health disorders, and their families, to seek help, and assist them in finding help when needed.
- Promote positive mental health through fellowship.
- Foster opportunities to build connections with individuals and families dealing with mental health disorders through a spirit of trust and acceptance.
Materials and Educational Opportunities
Many organizations and agencies have materials and other resources that can be used in congregational programs addressing depression and other mental health conditions.
NAMI has more than 600 local affiliates and 48 state organizations that work in communities to raise awareness and provide support and education. NAMI programs that can help individuals and families impacted by depression and other mental health conditions include NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI Peer-to-Peer, NAMI Connection and NAMI in Our Own Voice. On the NAMI website, you can identify organizations and affiliates near you that provide programs and support. The contact information for Maryland and metropolitan Baltimore is below.
- NAMI Maryland
NAMI Maryland holds events and provides educational resources, statewide outreach, advocacy and affiliate support. NAMI Maryland also provides free trainings so that affiliates can deliver programs. For more information, call 410-884-8691.
- NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore
NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore works with grassroots leaders to raise awareness and provide education, advocacy and support group programs for people with mental illness and their loved ones. If you have questions about programs and resources, call 410-435-2600 or e-mail [email protected].
- NAMI Maryland
A nationwide community-based nonprofit, Mental Health America addresses the needs of people living with mental illness and promotes the overall mental health of Americans. With more than 200 local affiliates in 42 states, MHA offers a variety of materials, online tools, programs and events.
This national organization focuses on mood disorders. It offers online and printed resources and has more than 200 affiliate chapters with peer-run support groups. The website provides a variety of educational materials including podcasts, videos and brochures on depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
The NIMH is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. It offers brochures and fact sheets on conditions including depression in men, women, older adults and teens.
Established in 1987, AFSP is a voluntary health organization that provides those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death. AFSP is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope.
A service of the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library and part of the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus is an online health information resource that provides easy-to-read health information on numerous health topics, drugs and supplements, medical tests and genetics. The website’s medical encyclopedia includes articles and images about diseases, symptoms, tests and treatments. You can also download recipes for a healthy lifestyle.
The American Psychiatric Association is the main professional organization of psychiatrists in the United States. Its website provides information for patients and families on common mental health disorders, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options. You can also read stories from people living with mental illness, access links to other resources, and search for a psychiatrist in your area using the Psychiatrist Locator.
The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students in the United States. Its website offers helpful information for patients and families on a variety of behavioral health topics such as addictions, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour national certification course that teaches laypeople how to assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use related crisis. You will learn about risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and noncrisis situations, and where to turn to for help.
SAMHSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.