FW Chamber meeting includes discussion on mental health aid

The monthly Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Dec. 6 featured speakers from Valley Cities, who shared some stress reduction tips and an impactful resource they provide for free through King County funding.

The Mental Health First Aid course might remind a participant of a CPR class, but it deals with emergencies that are caused by mental health issues and substance use. Instead of training participants on CPR, it provides de-escalation and support techniques to reduce harm and encourage healing.

Brandy Atkinson of Valley Cities shared that “participants are going to learn risk management factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns … and walk away with resources and helplines, and their mental health first aid certification that’s good for three years.”

She said that although the program is valued at $170, it is offered by Valley Cities for free to individuals or organizations living or working in King County. It is paid for by funding from the county.

Division Chief of Fire Prevention Kevin Crossen of South King Fire told The Mirror at the event that mental health crises are “becoming more and more of an issue for us and with no great answers,” adding that “it’s a long list of challenges, particularly the people that we see a lot, the people who don’t — or we believe they don’t — want the help.”

The Mental Health First Aid curriculum is available in three forms: adult, teen and youth.

“Both the adult and youth curriculum are taught to adults, so the adult mental health first aid will teach adults how to assist other adults who might be experiencing a mental health or substance use related crisis, whereas the youth curriculum is going to teach adults how to assist youth,” Atkinson explained in the presentation. “Teen mental health first aid is currently the only curriculum taught to youth. That curriculum will teach teens how to assist their friends and peers who might be experiencing a mental health challenge or substance use crisis or challenge.”

The next available session in person will be held 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Federal Way Valley Cities location, 33405 8th Avenue South. Interested participants must register ahead of time at www.valleycities.org/mhfa.

“I’ve already got ideas,” said Sharon Gentry, attendee and owner of Curves, after the Mental Health First Aid presentation.

“I don’t run into people in crisis very often in my business, but my husband runs the security at our church,” she said. “He’s got a network of people within the county that he’s starting to get together.”

Gentry added that she also wants to connect a friend to Mental Health First Aid training who already does medical first aid training.


Rebecca Martin, CEO of the Federal Way Chamber, wrapped up the luncheon with some inspiration for members. She encouraged them to take some time to rest and take care of themselves during the holidays and energize themselves for a strong start to 2024.

“It requires all of us working together for a better, brighter, greater Federal Way future. And really working together. Not just lip service, but roll up your sleeves strategy. Where no voice is bullied or silenced. And all of the stakeholders are invited to our table at the Chamber for honest, respectful, strategic discussion,” she said. “There is work to be done and we can all do it. At the Chamber, we embrace honest change, we focus on economic inclusiveness, and we harness the true power of community. Through our businesses, we are energized, we are ready. And thanks to your support and belief in this chamber, we can do more. And we will.”