Who We Are
In 1986, a small group of human rights activists and mental health workers gathered in Vancouver to support the flood of refugees arriving from the armed conflicts in Central America. They founded the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (“VAST”) in October of that year, and this dedicated group of volunteers built what would become BC’s largest centre for refugee mental health.
Today, VAST works with refugees from over 100 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Our programs and services are offered in over a dozen languages, including Arabic, Farsi, French, Mandarin, and Spanish.
We support the mental health of refugees who arrive in British Columbia with psychological trauma as a result of torture, political violence, and other forms of persecution on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
What We Do
We support refugee mental health through counselling, documentation, education, and referrals.
We provide trauma-focused psychological counseling for refugees in one-on-one and group settings. We use psycho-education, emotion self-regulation, and information sharing to prepare our clients for the short-term refugee claim and long-term settlement processes.
Our Getting Through It group is a weekly psychosocial support group for refugees on “getting through” their refugee claim. We have partnered with Settlement Orientation Services (“SOS”) to provide an integrated approach to address the immediate mental health and settlement needs of refugees in their first few months in Canada. The group is held every Wednesday from 10:00am – 12:00pm at VAST’s offices on Victoria Dr. Sessions are held in multiple languages.
We provide documentation of evidence of psychological trauma for the refugee claim process. We work with our clients (and their lawyers) to document symptoms of psychological trauma to support their refugee claim.
We provide training and professional development workshops on refugee mental health for health and social service providers, and students of allied health programs. We work on local and national committees to advance the rights of refugees and access to mental health services.
Our Refugee Readiness Project provides province-wide education and training for health and social service providers working with refugees throughout British Columbia. We provide information, referrals, and case consultation.
We provide referrals to health, housing, and settlement services. We work with our community partners in the health and social services sectors to create a network to support our clients’ basic needs.