Coast Mental Health Announces Fourth 2009 Courage To Come Back Award Recipient


    HELEN BURNHAM named as recipient in ADDICTION category

    VANCOUVER, April 13 /CNW/ - Coast Mental Health announced the fourth of
six award recipients of a 2009 Courage To Come Back Award. Helen Burnham of
Vancouver has been named as the 2009 Courage To Come Back Award recipient in
the Addiction category. The remaining recipients will be announced over the
next two Mondays, leading up to the awards gala on Thursday, April 30th.
    Growing up in an affluent Vancouver household in the 1950s, Helen Burnham
dreamed of getting married and having a large family. Her home life was
comfortable but strict: no smoking, dancing, playing cards, or drinking. As
was typical in those years, appearances were uppermost and feelings weren't
discussed. It was a childhood that couldn't have prepared Helen for what life
would bring.
    Helen married young and they started their family: seven children in 14
years. The marriage deteriorated as her husband became emotionally and
physically abusive. Helen tried to keep up appearances but the violence in her
home increased, and as a way of coping, she turned to alcohol. She took her
first drink in her thirties, but soon made up for lost time as the alcohol
seemed to make her life tolerable. Eventually, she began to fear for her life
and the lives of her children and after 20 years in a violent marriage she
ended it. Alone with seven children to raise, Helen found the feelings of
failure almost unbearable and her drinking increased. The loss of their home
to an arsonist's fire merely added to her addiction.
    It wasn't until Helen's son Danny was killed in April 1986 in an accident
directly related to alcohol and drugs that she sought help for herself and her
family. She found a counselor who put her in touch with a recovering alcoholic
who took her to a recovery meeting. Like many women, the thought of admitting
she was an alcoholic was very shameful for Helen, and she resisted treatment.
Eventually she realized it was the only way to save her family, and took her
last drink in January of 1987. Even in recovery, though, tragedy happens and
in the summer of 2002 Helen lost a second son, David, from mental illness and
addiction. Helen was devastated, but this time she did not drown her grief in
    Since the beginning of her recovery, Helen's mission in life has been to
do whatever she can to help other women find freedom from their addictions.
She did what very few upper middle-class women would dream of doing: she was
open about her illness. Looking for a way to give back and make the greatest
possible contribution, in 1990 she and a friend founded the Avalon Women's
Centre. The centre offers a variety of 12-Step programs and resources for
women across all social strata who are struggling with addiction issues, and
provides a safe, welcoming environment that supports them through their
recovery. It is a community of hope that has helped thousands of women in the
Lower Mainland achieve and maintain sobriety.
    Helen says, "Alcoholism is a disease with a lot of shame attached to it,
particularly for women. My hope is that by accepting this Courage To Come Back
Award, more women will have 'the courage to come back' themselves."
    Congratulations, Helen. Coast is proud to have you as our 2009 Courage To
Come Back recipient in the Addiction category.
    Helen Burnham named as recipient in CTCB Addiction category
    Helen will receive her Courage To Come Back Award at the 11th Annual Gala
Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver on Thursday, April 30th. For
tickets, call 604-675-2328 or purchase online at

    About Courage To Come Back:

    The Courage To Come Back Awards celebrate people who have inspired others
as they have courageously battled back from illness, adversity or injury.
Through Courage, British Columbians are acknowledged for their
accomplishments, positive attitudes and willingness to give back to their
communities. Awards are given in six categories including: mental health,
physical rehabilitation, medical, addiction, social adversity and youth.
    Through presenting the stories of six amazing recipients each year at The
Courage To Come Back Awards, Coast Mental Health strives to offer hope to all
those suffering from illness, adversity or injury and demonstrates that all
people have value and dignity regardless of the illness, adversity or injury
they have faced.

    About Coast Mental Health:

    Since 1972, Coast Mental Health has been providing high-quality housing,
employment programs, social opportunities and other community mental health
services for people with serious and persistent mental illnesses.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Julia Zado, Director of
Communications, D: (604) 675-2342, C: (604) 506-3095,

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