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.
Starting with a group of human rights activists and mental health workers gathered in Vancouver to support refugees arriving from the armed conflicts in Central America, in 1986, the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (“VAST”) turned the BC’s largest centre for refugee mental health.
countries (even more) in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America are origins of refugees VAST works with nowadays.
languages are supported by our programs and services, including Arabic, Farsi, French, Mandarin, and Spanish.
VAST provides trauma recovery services and a Healing Community, with either group support or individual counselling. VAST wellness support services are provided at no cost, for individuals or families in need. Usually VAST will refer out to one of our partners for individuals dealing with an active addiction, or for couples therapy, or family therapy (although we may be available to work with all members of the family).
VAST is an interdisciplinary organization raising our voice against all types of torture and working towards the rehabilitation of torture survivors.
We believe that when we achieve a better understanding of the violence that affects people, and when we better understand how to heal from this violence, and when we organize in a community to reduce this violence, we achieve a better safer world for all.
Since 1986, VAST has been supporting the healing of survivors, while providing documentation of torture and advisory on torture prevention and awareness in Vancouver. VAST works with refugees, immigrants, doctors, medical students, lawyers, law enforcement, schools, and health professionals.
In 2018, VAST entered into an exciting new collaboration with the founders of the RAHAT Medical Journal and the Voices Against Torture (VAT) Rehabilitation Center, Dr. Farooq Mehdi and Rahila Farooq, to consolidate our existing work and launch the VAST Research and Documentation Centre (VRDC). In 2020, the VRDC launched the semi-annual interdisciplinary journal Voices Against Torture.
The VRDC currently includes the following components:
Repository/Library of Resources: An online and physical multidisciplinary collection of resources related to torture, trauma, and human rights, with a focus on education, documentation, rehabilitation, healing, and community building among survivors. Collection of 1) Video (including VAST Youtube channel) 2) audio 3) reference books 4) local & international news items 5) research articles 6) client data analysis 7) Country or Region-specific torture/human rights related context (to support more effective rehabilitation supports for groups from there).
Training and Capacity Building: VAST offers training and professional development workshops on refugee mental health and recovery from trauma and torture, for health, education, and social service providers, law firms, and practicum students.
Documentation: Counsellors and Psychiatrists do psycho-legal and psycho-medical documentation, we coordinate with Law Firms representing survivors.
Tracking: types of torture, how many clients VAST is helping, the extent of VAST’s work. Coordinate with the IRCT for Global Data in the Fight Against Impunity Project.
Research (measures of effectiveness): Partner with Universities, supervise student projects.
Any Publications from team members.
Advocacy: For the prevention of torture, and to raise awareness about human rights issues and violence affecting minorities, indigenous people, and refugees. We train/guide former clients to become spokespeople for refugees, refugee claimants, and mental health needs, and against torture. Newsletter containing some of the below. Direct links to Witness and Amnesty, etc. Social Media. participate in walks, etc.