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Free community mental health day in Federal Way

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Amid a pandemic, social injustices, smoke and wildfires, local organizations are working to ensure mental health comes first in Federal Way.

Local organizations are hosting a free community mental health day this weekend for people who have been historically marginalized, especially individuals of the Black community in King County.

Community members have access to free in-person and online mental health resources, along with free COVID-19 testing, from 2-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at the PAEC (31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way S). The event will also feature voter registration, assistance filling out the 2020 Census, and more.

Hosted by NAACP Seattle King County, Public Health Seattle – King County, Black Nurses Rock, FW Black Collective, Progress Pushers, and the City of Federal Way, the event is the first of its kind in Federal Way.

The stress of current events impacting minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot be ignored, said DeAunte’ Damper, the first LGBTQ chair of the Seattle – King County NAACP.

“Because of COVID, our community isn’t getting the resources they need, so we wanted to provide that,” Damper said.

On top of a pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 200,000 people in the United States as of this week, minorities are facing injustices socially and from law enforcement agencies, Damper said.

For months, community members and activists have taken to the streets to protest the killings of George Floyd of Minneapolis, Shaun Lee Fuhr of Seattle, Dante Taylor of New York, and countless others. Many of those arrested have been minorities or those of the LGBTQ+ community and often face greater discrimination, Damper said.

Because of these traumatic experiences most of the nation is going through, “life is really at a standstill, nationally and in King County,” he said. “It’s really heavy.”

Damper said he went through his own phases of doubt, fear and sadness that resulted in him recently seeking mental health help. A community mental health event provides a space for people to seek help, even when the conversation of therapy and other mental health resources can be seen as taboo in minority communities, he said.

The Federal Way event this Saturday is an opportunity to show unity with the community, and provide safety in these times of seemingly endless tragedy.

“I want the community to know these organizations are here and regardless of what’s going on, we need to continue to heal each other,” he said. “We don’t want you to go through it alone.”

The idea for this mental health event, the first of which occurred in Seattle in July, was originally born from Teri Rogers Kemp, the police accountability co-chair of the NAACP, Damper said. The July 11 event in Seattle had about 50-60 attendees, and led Rogers Kemp to say, “let’s do it again,” Damper said.

A driving force for bringing this event to Federal Way is credited to the leadership of FW Black Collective and the dedication of the City of Federal Way to create a successful event while being mindful of participants’ privacy and safety, he added.

“The FW Black Collective is an essential example of what community looks like,” Damper said of the nonprofit’s wrap around services. He also commended the mentorship of collective co-founder Lyn Idahosa.

This week marks six months since Washington’s stay-at-home order due to the virus pandemic was first issued, which mental health experts say also marks a critical period of six-to-nine months post impact from a disaster, according to KNKX.org.

Kira Mauseth, a psychologist who helps lead the state’s Behavioral Health Strike Team, told KNKX this time frame is the hardest for people “because we really struggle with that coming-to-terms, that acceptance of what the new normal is going to look like. And there’s a lot of information we don’t have about how that’s going to go.”

Additionally, people are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance use problems and suicide, among other mental and emotional difficulties, KNKX reported.

In-person details

Free, 30-minute sessions with mental health providers and free COVID-19 testing will be available for all onsite at the Performing Arts and Event Center. Drive-thru sessions will also be available.

When: 2-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26

Where: Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center, 31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way S., Federal Way, WA 98003

Online access details

If community members prefer the safety and privacy of their own homes, the event also features free, 30-minute remote sessions with mental health providers. These sessions will happen via private and secure Zoom calls from 2-7 p.m.

To sign up for online sessions, email Norilyn.DelaPena@kingcounty.gov.

For more information, visit disabilityrightswa.org/naacpmentalhealth.

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Olivia Sullivan