Congregational Toolkit

Congregational toolkit handout

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:

  1. Depression should be viewed as a medical condition, just like hypertension or diabetes.
  2. 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.

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.

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.