Free mental health first aid training reduces stigma, empowers individuals to help

Learn to recognize common signs of a mental health challenge and how to respond

Every day in King County, we interact with family, friends and colleagues who need mental health support or have a crisis, but often don’t know how to help.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a national mental health program, can equip you with the tools you need, says Brandy Atkinson, Program Manager at Valley Cities.

“This program is designed to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges and fills a vital need in our community,” Atkinson says. “We need to support ourselves and others in accessing mental health resources – we can’t pour from an empty cup.”

The National Mental Health First Aid program became available through King County in 2019 with Valley Cities Behavioral Health administering the program. Valley Cities has 11 clinics providing inpatient and outpatient mental health and substance use disorder treatment, along with support services for adults, children, and families living in King County.

“Our program and training are funded by the King County mental health and drug dependency tax and are free for everyone in King County,” Atkinson says, noting training is offered monthly for youth and adults, both in-person and virtually.

After five years of working for non-profits, Atkinson deeply believes in the program’s impact.

“It teaches people how to recognize common signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge, how to interact with a person in a mental health crisis and help them access resources using a five-step action plan,” Atkinson says.

Participants leave the program equipped and empowered with the resources to provide initial support to someone in crisis.

Michelle Brode, Mental Health First Aid Instructor teaching a Youth MHFA course. Photo Courtesy of Brandy Atkinson.

Michelle Brode, Mental Health First Aid Instructor teaching a Youth MHFA course. Photo Courtesy of Brandy Atkinson.

Training dates and registration

Register for Mental Health First Aid at valleycities.org

An in-person adult session is coming up at Valley Cities Behavioral Health Care, 33405 8th Ave S, Federal Way, Wa., on January 19th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Virtual adult and youth courses are also available with a required two-hour training to be completed before the group session.

Local organizations on board and more are welcome

Valley Cities’ Mental Health First Aid instructors are certified counselors and social workers, all certified to provide in-person and virtual training.

“This year, we have partners like Seattle Housing Authority and the Refugee Women’s Alliance who have scheduled individual classes with their staff. We’re always looking for organizations to join us and we can accommodate both larger and smaller groups to train all employees and get them certified,” Atkinson says.

“Don’t wait to learn something that can change the lives of those around you, including yourself.”

To learn more, visit valleycities.org, or call 253-833-7444. You can also stay up to date with Valley Cities on Facebook.

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