Press release

Transforming Mental Wellness: Recovery College YVR Launches to Address Gaps in Mental Health and Substance Use System

TUESDAY, MAY 2, North and West Vancouver, British Columbia, the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations – This afternoon, the Government of British Columbia, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of North and West Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) are kicking off Mental Health Week (May 1-7) with the launch of Recovery College YVR (RC YVR), a community learning centre offering free courses to address transitional gaps across the mental health and substance use system.

The BC provincial government has invested $421,000 to support the development of Recovery College YVR. RC offers various virtual and in-person workshops, groups, webinars, educational events, and community connection points to enhance mental health literacy, provide peer-to-peer support and aid in developing meaningful personal goals.

“Our government is building a continuum of care for mental health and addictions services from the ground up,” said Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“With Recovery College in Vancouver, more people will have access to support and information to educate and empower practitioners, everyday people, and those struggling with mental health. Programs like this go a long way in ensuring people can access the services they need where and when they need them.”

Many acute mental health services focus only on people with complex clinical presentations. As a result, 20 percent of Canadians with mild to moderate mental health and/or substance use problems cannot access appropriate resources and support[1].  This service gap leads to many residents of British Columbia waiting until they reach a state of crisis before seeking treatment, resulting in an estimated annual cost of $6.6 billion to the economy[2].

Julia Kaisla, Executive Director of CMHA North and West Vancouver Branch, explains: “Offering options with minimal barriers to entry like the Recovery College approach is vital to fill the voids in mental health and recovery systems. Following the success of sixteen Recovery Colleges in other Canadian provinces, we’re pleased to launch the first in Greater Vancouver to provide individuals grappling with mental health issues access to free courses and social support groups without any referral or diagnosis needed.  This program empowers people to develop resourcefulness and support their social, spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental wellness.”

Recovery College YVR, a partnership between CMHA North and West Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), is based on a thriving community mental health model from the United Kingdom that emphasizes personal recovery in mental health and well-being. Recovery Colleges (RCs) provide a unique approach to learning that differs from traditional methods. They are self-directed, free, and readily available, emphasizing non-clinical advice from service providers and peer mentors who have personal experience with recovery. RCs aim to establish a secure environment where people can explore their mental health and develop meaningful connections while feeling empowered throughout their recovery. Course and group categories include art therapy, pet therapy, guided meditation, self-discovery, self-management for addiction and social connection. Some courses are available in Farsi as well as English.

Andrew MacFarlane, Regional Director, Mental Health and Substance Use, Vancouver Coastal Health, said: “We are thrilled to partner with CMHA on the creation of Recovery College YVR to fill a gap in mental health service provision between in-patient care and outpatient recovery within the community. We will continue working closely with healthcare experts, people with lived experience and their families to ensure that those facing mental health and substance challenges can easily access these important resources to support their or a loved one’s recovery.”

To mark the launch, CMHA North and West Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) hosted a media lunch event at the Joseph & Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre to spotlight the significant collaboration and partnership behind the new initiative. Speakers included: Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; Julia Kaisla, the Executive Director of CMHA North and West Vancouver Branch; Andrew MacFarlane, Regional Director, Mental Health and Substance Use, and MJ Moore, a Recovery College YVR Peer Support Worker with lived experience.

MJ Moore, Recovery College YVR Peer Support Worker, said: "Ensuring that individuals facing mental health or substance use challenges have access to meaningful support and tools to aid their recovery journey is crucial. As a person with lived experience, I think back to my recovery journey and can’t help but wonder how much better I would have felt knowing I was not alone and had these amazing people and resources to call on. The peers I have the honour of working alongside bring so much wisdom and insight into this work and this project. I am so proud of Recovery College YVR and the brilliant minds that made it happen.”

If you are over 18 years old, learn, connect and grow by signing up for a Recovery College course here.

About Recovery College YVR – A Community Wellness Hub.

In partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, North & West Vancouver Branch and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the YVR Recovery College is the 17th location in Canada. The college offers various educational courses, including art therapy for wellness, chronic pain management, and SMART Recovery - Self Management for Addiction. Additionally, several social support groups are available, such as self-discovery, wellness, training, and social connection groups, including the Circle of Hope - Farsi Speaking Women's group and the Men Let’s Talk peer-guided mental health space.

"Our vision is for RC YVR to address significant service and transitional gaps across the mental health and substance use system through a community-based delivery. RC YVR effectively reaches people in settings where access to mental health and substance use services is limited by offering in-person, virtual courses and social support groups" --Recovery College YVR.

Click here to find out more about Recovery College YVR.

About Canadian Mental Health Association, North and West Vancouver

CMHA North and West Vancouver is a branch of Canada’s most established mental health charity. CMHA helps people access resources to maintain and improve mental health. Each year in BC, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people. For mental health and addiction information and resources, visit

About Vancouver Coastal Health

VCH is committed to delivering exceptional care to 1.2 million people, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit in our region, within the traditional territories of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai'xais, Lil'wat, Musqueam, N'Quatqua, Nuxalk, Samahquam, shíshálh, Skatin, Squamish, Tla'amin, Tsleil-Waututh, Wuikinuxv, and Xa'xtsa. VCH is British Columbia’s hub of healthcare innovation, research and academic excellence, providing specialized care to patients throughout the province.

[1] CMHA Barrier Report 2019, p 7:

[2] CMHA North and West Vancouver Branch, Facts and Figures:


VCH Public Affairs
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