The Congregational Depression Awareness Program (CDAP) trains volunteers from faith communities to share valuable information about depression in their congregations and communities. The goals of the program are to increase awareness of depression, decrease the stigma associated with depression and mental illness, increase awareness of treatments for depression and assist with identifying and accessing resources.
1 in 5
adults will experience an episode of major depression in their lifetime.
of people who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
What is the Congressional Depression Awareness Program?
CDAP trains volunteers from faith communities to share valuable information about depression in their congregations and communities and provides support for people directly and indirectly impacted by depression. Participants in this program receive instruction, resources and ongoing supervision on the following topics:
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression
- Strategies to overcome the stigma associated with depression and other mental illnesses
- Medical and psychotherapy treatments
- Assisting people who need help identifying and accessing mental health services
- Providing informal (nonprofessional) support that can complement professional care
- Providing guidance and support for people who have a loved one who has depression
- Recognizing and responding to suicide warning signs
- Local and national resources (e.g., the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
The two key points for participants to take away from this program are:
- Depression should be viewed as a medical condition, just like hypertension or diabetes, and there is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed about having depression, and
- There are effective treatments for depression.
Is CDAP Right for Me?
There are special qualities that people interested in participating in the Congregational Depression Awareness Program need to bring to their work. First is a genuine desire to help others. If you find it rewarding to reach out to those facing difficult circumstances, to learn about the challenges they face and to help them as they strive to meet those challenges, then chances are that being a volunteer in the program will be very gratifying for you.
Although much of your work will involve arranging educational offerings and sharing resources, it is also important to be a good listener and to be willing to talk about difficult issues. Some of what you hear and what you need to discuss could be unpleasant (e.g., traumatic childhood experiences, painful personal losses, serious relationship problems). Additionally, people in general, and particularly those with a mental health condition, may be reluctant to bring up some topics — not because they are unpleasant, but because people fear they will be criticized (e.g., difficulty meeting basic home and family responsibilities). But these matters need to be dealt with openly and professionally to bring about the best possible care. It is important that you have an attitude of openness and acceptance regarding these topics.
The ability to earn confidence and trust also is critical. Although we can provide you with the knowledge, skills and materials you need, your effectiveness will be greatly limited if you do not have the complete trust of the people you are assisting. You may be entrusted with sensitive information that must be treated with absolute confidentiality, and it is important that you understand and accept this responsibility.
Another important quality is patience. Even with treatment, recovery from depression takes time. If you are called on to support an individual or family impacted by depression, this may require several visits or telephone conversations.
You also need to maintain a positive outlook, even when there are difficult circumstances and setbacks. This does not mean you always have to be cheerful, but rather, carry with you a deep, abiding faith in the importance of your work. You need to show that you have confidence in your ability to assist and enrich the lives of those with whom you are working.
One more characteristic of an effective volunteer is an eagerness to learn. As you participate in this program, you will meet with health care professionals and learn about different approaches to the treatment of depression and other mental health conditions. You also may talk with individuals and families as they cope with depression, and discuss the challenges they face and the strengths and resources they bring to these challenges. The more eager you are to learn about these matters, the more effective you will be.
Please contact Kimberly Monson with questions about the program or applications.
This program is supported by the John and Polly Sparks Foundation and the O’Neill Foundation of Community Health.