Upcoming Events

Mental Health First Aid Basic Training

Date: Course 1: March 23 & 24, 2018
          Course 2:  March 28 and 29, 2018

Location: VANCOUVER TBA (could be at your workplace)

 To register call: 604 733-7428 or Email: [email protected]

 Why Mental Health First Aid for my Workplace?
The stats are convincing!

    • In a recent major Canadian study, 82% of responding organizations ranked mental health conditions in their top three causes of short term disability (72% for long-term).
    • 30% of all short and long term disability claims are due to mental health problems and illnesses.
    • The average responding organization reported spending more than $10.5 million annually on absence claims.
  • In 2011, lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism (present but less than fully productive at work) due to mental health problems and illnesses was approximately $6 Billion.

In 2013 Canada introduced the new Psychologically Health and Safety Standard for the Workplace.

 Workplace first aid now includes mental health.
Just like physical first aid for physical injuries can be administered in a crises situation or before professional care can be sought, MHFA is given until appropriate treatment is found or until the crisis is resolved.

Recognize a change in behaviour

Respond with a confident conversation

Guide to appropriate resources and support

Outcomes of MHFA training:

    • Significantly greater recognition of the most common mental health illnesses and problems
    • Decreased social distance from people with mental health illnesses or problems
    • Increased confidence in providing help to others
  • Demonstrated increase in helpful actions

I have gained a greater awareness and understanding of Mental Health issues. I have also gained a confidence within myself as a professional to recognize, empathize and provide supports to individuals with mental health barriers.

Key benefits of a mentally healthy workplace

Employers who set a strategic direction for improving mental health are rewarded with dramatic cost and effectiveness benefits, enjoying significant and sustainable enhancements in:

Productivity: Happy and psychologically healthy employees work harder and more efficiently.

Cost Savings due to Disability and Absenteeism: There is a strong link between mental health, physical well-being and injury prevention

Operational Success: Mentally healthy workplaces are characterized by higher levels of employee motivation, commitment, innovation and creativity, as well as fewer errors, better decision making and improved planning.

Recruitment and Retention: Top candidates today are looking for a workplace that supports their personal and professional growth.

Conflict Reduction: Better mental health among employees means fewer grievances and complaints and a stronger corporate reputation

Operational Success: Mentally healthy workplaces are characterized by higher levels of employee motivation, commitment, innovation and creativity, as well as fewer errors, better decision making and improved planning.

**Mental Health Commission of Canada

Create a Psychologically Healthy Workplace with Mental Health First Aid Now!

Mental Health First Aid Basic Training

MHFA Basic is intended for adults interacting with adults (18 years and older). This course focuses on the four most common mental health disorders including substance related, mood related, anxiety and trauma related, and psychotic disorders. Participants who take this course are well prepared to interact confidently about mental health with their family, friends, communities, and workplaces.

“I am recommending this course to family, friends and colleagues. I realized through this course that I carried a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about mental illness.”

Course Overview:
Mental Health and Stigma
Substance-related Disorders
Mood-related Disorders
Anxiety and Trauma-related Disorders
Psychotic Disorders
The ALGEE Model

Key Outcomes

International evaluations and feedback have found the following outcomes for participants undertaking an MHFA course:

·         Increased awareness of signs and symptoms of the most common mental health problems

·         Decreased stigma related to mental health

·         Increased confidence interacting with individuals experiencing a mental health problem or crisis

·         Increased help actually provided to individuals in crisis or experiencing a mental health problem

Course Details

1.   Mental Health and Stigma

·         What is Mental Health First Aid?

·         Common mental health problems

·         Five basic actions of mental health first aid

·         Stigma and discrimination

“This course taught me the skills that are necessary in a case of crisis. I am very pleased to say that this course will help us provide clients the support they need and deserve”.

2.   Substance-related Disorders 

·         What is a substance-related disorder?

·         Signs and symptoms

·         Risk factors

·         MHFA for substance-related problems

·         Crisis first aid for overdose

·         Treatment and resources

“This course would be appropriate for all people working at the front lines with difficult clients. The knowledge shared has made me more aware and empathic of people suffering from mental illness.”

3.   Mood-related Disorders

·         What is a mood-related disorder?

·         Types of mood-related disorders

·         Signs and symptoms

·         Risk factors

·         Substance use and mood disorders

·         Suicide in Canada

·         MHFA for mood-related problems

·         Crisis first aid for suicidal behavior

·         Treatment and resources

“This was a very useful workshop and should be mandatory for anyone who has to deal with clients/students and especially your peers. This workshop gives you the tool to recognize and deal with the behavior more easily.”

4.   Anxiety and Trauma-related Disorders

·         What are anxiety and trauma related disorders?

·         Types of anxiety and trauma related disorders

·         Signs and symptoms

·         Risk factors

·         Substance use and anxiety disorders

·         MHFA for anxiety and trauma related problems

·         Crisis first aid for panic attacks

·         Crisis first aid for acute stress reactions

·         Treatment and resources

5.   Psychotic Disorders

·         What is a psychotic disorder?

·         Types of psychotic disorders

·         Signs and symptoms

·         Risk factors

·         Substance use and psychotic disorders

·         MHFA for psychotic disorders

·         Crisis first aid for psychotic episodes

“I am recommending this course to family, friends and colleagues. I realized through this course that I carried allot of misinformation and misconceptions about mental illness.”

The ALGEE Model 

In the MHFA course, you will gain a solid understanding of the 5 basic actions of ALGEE:

Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm
Listen non-judgmentally
Give reassurance
ncourage professional support
Encourage other supports

ALGEE is the framework for having a confident conversation about mental health with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.

**From Mental Health Commission of Canada

Mental Health First Aid:

an Evidence Based Program 

Over the past 15 years, MHFA has undergone extensive evaluation. The results are impressive and convincing.

 Peer-reviewed studies published in multiple countries including Australia, where the program originated, show that individuals trained in the program:

·         Increase their knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental health problems

·         Decrease the social distance between themselves and someone with a mental health problem

·         Increase their confidence to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis

·         Can identify professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental health problem

·         Show increased mental wellness themselves

·         Since 2002, MHFA has been delivered to diverse groups and been the subject of evaluation and assessment studies from many perspectives. 

Below and attached are a number of the studies that have been completed:

Mental Health First Aid is an effective public health intervention for improving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour: A meta-analysis

Hadlaczky G, Hokby S, Mkrtchian A, Carli V, Wassmerman D. Mental Health First Aid is an effective public health intervention for improving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour: A meta-analysisInternational Review of Psychiatry, 2014; 4; 467-475.

The paper aimed to synthesize published evaluations of the MHFA program in a meta-analysis to estimate its effects and potential as a public mental health awareness-increasing strategy. Fifteen relevant papers were identified through a systematic literature search. Standardized effect sizes were calculated for three different outcome measures: change in knowledge, attitudes, and helping behaviors. Standardized effect sizes were calculated for three different outcome measures: change in knowledge, attitudes and helping behaviors. Mean effect sizes were 0.56 for knowledge, 0.28 for attitudes, and 0.25 for behaviors, indicating that MHFA training had a medium effect on changing knowledge and small effects on influencing attitudes and behaviors. Thus findings from the meta-analysis indicate promising gains among individuals trained in MHFA, particularly in knowledge, and possibly in attitudes and helping behavior. The results demonstrate that MHFA increases participants’ knowledge regarding mental health, decreases their negative attitudes, and increases supportive behaviors toward individuals with mental health problems.

Evaluating the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid training among student affairs staff at a Canadian university

Massey J, Brooks M, Burrow, J. Evaluating the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid training among student affairs staff at a Canadian universityJournal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 2014; 51:3; 323–336.

This study evaluated the effectiveness of providing the Mental Health First Aid training program to student affairs staff. The objective of the training was to increase knowledge of mental health, enhance sensitivity, and raise confidence to intervene and assistindividuals experiencing a mental health issue. Results demonstrated that the training successfully met its objectives and offers great potential to student affairs practitioners.

Promoting well-being and reducing stigma about mental health in the fire service

Moffitt J, Bostock J, Cave A. Promoting well-being and reducing stigma about mental health in the fire serviceJournal of Public Mental Health, 2014; 13; 103-113.

This study evaluated the impact of three mental health promotion interventions, including MHFA, on attitudes and knowledge towards mental health in fire service managers at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. The results from this study indicated that providing MHFA was considered helpful by managers in the Fire Service and had positive outcomes for attitudes and understanding about mental health. Specifically, the MHFA course was associated with statistically significant improvements in attitudes to mental illness and knowledge/self-efficacy around mental health.


Mental Health First Aid USA in a rural community: Perceived impact on knowledge, attitudes and behavior

Mendenhall AN, Jackson SC, Hase S. 
Mental Health First Aid USA in a rural community: Perceived impact on knowledge, attitudes and behavior. Social Work in Mental Health, 2013; 11:6; 563-577.

This study investigated the perceived impact of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) on individuals who took the class through a community mental health center in rural Kansas. One hundred and seventy-six MHFA graduates completed an online survey assessing their perception of the impact of completing the MHFA course. Findings corresponded with previous Australian MHFA studies that found outcomes including improved mental health literacy and changed attitudes and behaviors, but the study sample limits generalizability.

To register call: 604 733-7428 or Email: [email protected]

April 2017

“It’s All About Me” Codependency Recovery Seminar
April 29, 2017 from 2-4 PM
Avalon’s Women Center
Price: No Charge
Call to Register: 604.263.7177
Click here for the brochure

May – June 2017

“It’s All About Me” New Codependency Recovery Series
8 Thursday Evening Sessions
Arbutus Club Vancouver
Price: $880 (includes GST)
Call or Text to Register: 604.839.3413
Click here for the brochure

September 2016

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: DBT Group


Group therapy sessions including skills training in Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness

Learn more about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. Get your free e-book.

Find out about this highly-effective therapy and how it can help you transform your reality into a "life worth living".

DBT or Dialectical Behavior therapy is an excellent cognitive behavioral technique using mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness for those suffering from difficulties with their moods and addictions of all kinds.

DBT is a great tool to manage anxiety and emotional reactivity thus preventing relapse and/or dysfunctional reactivity from occurring.

This six week group therapy sessions will help you identify your emotions, learn to tolerate them and regulate them with mindfulness and other skills to have a more positive, balanced and peaceful life where you are more effective.

Sessions employ a rotating curriculum and accommodate a continuous intake.People can join at any point in the continuum.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Where: Edgewood Health Network, 1525 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6J 1S1
When:  Tuesday evenings, 6:30pm -8:30pm (September 27, October 11, October 25, November 8, December 6, December 20, 2016 January 24, February 7, February 21, March 7, March 21, and April 4, 2017)
Cost:    $504 for six weeks of group ($20 off for referring a friend) or $85 drop in fee
Phone: 604.734.1100 (Please phone to register.)

Click here for the flyer.


The Joy and Wonder of Mindful Eating
4 Week Series:
February 9 to March 1, 2016
4 Tuesdays from 6PM-8PM
Bring a meal to eat (microwave available) and we will explore the 7 types of hunger
Location: 750 east 7th avenue in Mount Pleasant
Please preregister below by paying via Paypal, then call (604-733-7428) or email Gina ([email protected]) with any comments or questions.
$25 for drop-in or $90 for all four


The Joy of Mindful Eating in Vancouver
January 29 & 30, 2016
Happening at A Rocha Canada: Brooksdale Guest House
19353 16th Avenue
South Surrey, BC
Click here for more information.

December 2015

The Joy & Wonder of Mindful Eating in Vancouver
Wednesday, December 16th from 12pm – 2pm
Happening at the Avalon Women’s Recovery Center
101 – 1548 Johnston Road
White Rock, BC  V4B 3Z8
For more information, contact Cindy Faulkner (Phone: 604-263-7177)

The Joy & Wonder of Mindful Eating in Vancouver
Monday, December 7th from 2pm – 4pm
Happening at the Avalon Women’s Recovery Center
5957 West Boulevard,
Vancouver, BC  V6M 3X1
For more information, contact Michelle Swan (Phone: 604-263-7177)

The Joy & Wonder of Mindful Eating in W. Vancouver
Monday, December 7th from 9:45am – 11:45am
Happening at the Avalon Women’s Recovery Center
#203 – 657 Marine Drive,
W Vancouver, BC  V7T 1A4
For more information, contact Heide Mayne (Phone: 604-913-0477)

The Joy of Mindful Eating Retreat

Stop the binge-purge or binge-restrict cycle.

Imagine what it would be like to never diet again

Dates: January 29 and 30, 2016

Plate of Food

I invite you to give yourself this gift. Take some time out of your busy schedule to discover tools to help you transform your relationship to food.

  • Mindful eating can help you accept your body as it is and move towards your ideal size.
  • Be more comfortable with your body and take care of it no matter what size it is. Start loving your body and yourself more.
  • Become more aware of what needs are being met by your disordered eating. Find healthy ways to get your needs met with your relationship with yourself and others.
  • This retreat is a good way to start moving away from the compulsive eating/restricting syndrome.
  • Stop limiting your foods to what you consider “good foods” and restricting the “bad foods”.

Retreat Description:

  • There will be a supportive, therapeutic and educational environment for you to learn and grow. The group is a way for you to share with others to know that you are not alone. You will be assigned a support buddy for continuing on after the retreat is over.
  • You will learn about the many types of hunger including stomach hunger, mouth hunger, and heart hunger. It’s not possible to be compulsive and and mindful at the same time. When you participate in the exercises you can slow down and savor your food. It will help increase your awareness of your thoughts and feelings. You will be better able to recognize when you are full.
  • Free follow up conference call (TBA in February 2015) to guide you in your journey of mindful eating.

Say good bye to the clean plate club forever!

Trees in the fog

About the Facilitators

About Gina Vanderham, MA, SD, ICADC, LMFT, SAP

Gina Vanderham has over 26 years in recovery from disordered eating and alcohol and drugs. She also has 22 years experience as a psychotherapist specializing in addictions of all kinds. These include alcohol and drugs food and co-dependency and women’s’ issues. She is a Licensed Marriage Family and Child Therapist, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor, Spiritual Director, Certified Employee Assistance Professional and Substance Abuse Professional.

ShallahAbout Shallah Panjwani

Shallah is a registered dietitian and a member of the College of Dietitians of BC as well as Dietitians of Canada. She has over 25 years of experience working in Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition, she has her certification in the prevention and recovery of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating.

At A Rocha Canada: Brooksdale Guest House: 19353 16th Ave., South Surrey, BC

Retreat Schedule

Friday 7-9 PM: Includes lecture and exercises, including mindful movement and mindful snack and discussion.

Saturday 8:30-4:00 PM: Includes combination of lecture, discussion and mindful movement. We will practice mindful eating for breakfast, snacks and lunch. We will also take breaks to explore the beautiful natural retreat setting and the Arocha Rivertree Store (preserves, meats, toys, and homemade crafts).

Saturday will also include a special guest appearance by Dietician Shallah Panjwani.


This retreat is being offered at a low introductory rate.

$197 (+ GST) Deadline January 26, 2015


Accommodations: SOLD OUT!  Rooms are no longer available.

Register now

The Joy of Mindful Eating Retreat

Mindful eating meditation can be a very a powerful and transforming experience.

Here is what some others have said:

I found the Mindfulness Eating meetup led by Gina Vanderham to be a profound and valuable experience. Gina really knows her stuff. She introduced the concepts well and made them easy to understand. She guided us through the process well. She was also a good model when she demonstrated how to do mindful eating and the noticing the sensations and feelings that can came up. She used her therapeutic skills effectively and gently helped me to “go deeper” into what thoughts and feelings came up for me. The insights and learning have stayed with me.

The Mindfulness Eating Meetup by Gina Vanderham was definitely food for thought. Leading up to the Meetup I found myself being more aware of what, where, and when I eat. That alone was helpful. The power of intention. What I found helpful in the actual Meetup was not talking while we were eating. Taking breaks and talking about how we felt was also helpful. Being aware of the tastes and feelings and the reasons we eat was interesting and I would like to practice this again. Thank you Gina for this gift of mindful eating.

“Mindful eating has been so helpful for me. I have learned with practice to slow down my eating and to be present with my food. Learning about the different types of hunger has been extremely beneficial. I am learning to distinguish the variety of ways my body feels hunger. This has been key in my recovery. Thank you.”

“I can’t believe it! I left food on my plate for the first time ever!”

Register now