Johns Hopkins Congregational Depression Awareness Program discusses mental illness with faith leaders

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When Felicia Diggs-Hudson learned that a member of her family was suffering from depression, she looked for help. A friend told her about the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's Congregational Depression Awareness Program (CDAP), which disseminates vital information on depression to individuals directly and indirectly affected by it through houses of worship.

Diggs-Hudson, an associate pastor of the New Israelite Family Worship Center in Baltimore, says, "I needed to find a way to be present for my family." "You would never guess it, yet there are so many individuals who suffer from depression."

CDAP has transformed Diggs-perception of Hudson's depression, which she previously associated with "a lack of faith."

"It was seen as God punishing you or as demonic spirits conquering you if you were suffering from mental illness," she adds. "I was told that real repentance required deliverance. The fact is that God sent individuals on this planet to study and become mental health experts to aid in the healing process, just as if they were fighting a physical ailment. I've discovered that the only way to be healed is to reveal. If you choose to keep mute, all you will accomplish is to continue to suffer, and your illness will worsen."

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's Congregational Depression Awareness Program

A five-week, ten-hour course was just completed by 19 church leaders from 12 Baltimore churches. An introduction of the signs and symptoms of depression, medical and psychological treatment choices, personal tales, theological reflections, effective listening methods, and self-care advice are all included in the course. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Pro Bono Counseling Project have also contributed local and national resources to the program.

CDAP was founded by W. Daniel Hale, Ph.D., who created the program to help religious leaders understand how to support their congregations and minimize mental health stigma. Hale worked with Denis Antoine, M.D., CDAP co-director and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, on establishing the CDAP curriculum.

Hale and Antoine teach faith leaders that mental illness is a medical condition similar to hypertension or diabetes and that it can cripple one's personal and professional life, according to Hale. It has the potential to be both life-limiting and life-threatening. Too many people do not receive the medical attention they require."

Volunteers in the CDAP program are trained on how to identify depression in attendees. They also learn how to refer congregation members to professional aid and how to give them hope.

CDAP administrator Kimberly Monson believes the program works because faith-based groups play a significant role in Baltimore communities.

People respect and heed their religious leaders, according to Monson. "It can assist if the religious leader can assist eliminate the stigma and communicate freely about it within their congregation."

Jerry Diggs, bishop of New Israelite Family Worship Center, claims he saw many individuals in his ministry with mental health concerns after participating in the training program.

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