Coltyn Liu, 16, of Vancouver, is the 2016 Courage to Come Back Award recipient in the Youth category.


Coltyn Liu
Photo credit: Mark van Manen/PNG

Look at him now and you’d never believe his story: hit by a steel vendor’s cart in a shopping mall food court as a toddler, slammed aside like a rag doll, suffering traumatic brain injury which left him having to learn to talk, to walk, to comprehend; left him hyper-sensitive to sound and the world around him, susceptible to screaming fits, seizures and ongoing secondary injuries and challenges.

Look at him now and you see an ‘A’ student, six-feet-four, a volleyball star, a leader and winner with the awards to prove it. You see a mentor to other kids, a volunteer coach and ref. You couldn’t imagine him slithering on his stomach, lashing out in pain, a crying violent boy, bullied mercilessly, not able to handle being touched or understand what was happening or being said around him, moved to home schooling. You’d never believe the daily heartache and struggles he still goes through to be in school, the effort it takes to do everyday activities and the things he loves or the anguish he lives with as he fights through a day and the continuing regressions and pain.

Look at him now and it’s easy to forget the years of poverty, the food bank line-ups, the scrounging to survive, the doctors, lawyers and therapists as his mother and sister fought the system to get him the help he needed. You’d never know the battles they still face and the hardships they continue to endure.

Look at him now and you will see his “me-do” attitude, his will to live and overcome perceptions and beat the odds, you see his love of sport, first as therapy, then as a passion. As one of his teachers puts it, Coltyn “is one of those elite-level athletes who has the innate ability to raise the level of all the people around him”.

Look at him now and you’ll find him helping others, founding, with his sister and mother, K.A.R.E (Kids Actions Really Energize) Power, an organization which identifies community challenges and comes up with solutions from a youth perspective.

Coltyn will receive his award at The Courage To Come Back Awards gala dinner on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Tickets and information at

Global News

Sonia Deol interviews Coltyn Liu – click to view on Global News website>

The Province newspaper

Susan Lazaruk editorial about Coltyn Liu – click to read on The Province website>


John Ackerman interviews Coltyn Liu – click to listen on News1130 website>


Coast Mental Health

by Darrell Burnham, CEO Coast Mental Health

Darrell BurnhamCoast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day.

Coast Mental Health started the CTCB Awards seventeen years ago. We saw this event as means to highlight the triumph and perseverance of the human spirit.

Through the Courage Awards, we meet six remarkable people who demonstrate these characteristics. Each recipient is a beacon of hope, a fearless hero, a shining example of possibility.

To us it is a wonderful parallel to the recovery we see in people with mental illness.

No matter how bleak things may be, not matter what hardship or misfortune you face, through the right supports and inspiration we all have an ability to rise up and find a brighter future. It shows that there is resilience in each of us that allows us to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off, and to overcome.

Over the years we have had many hundreds of nominees, each with their own extraordinary story. Every story has a common thread – great adversity, a life filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heartbreak, suffering, and despair.

For me, I learn just how challenging life can be and I see how fortunate most of us are to have our safety, comfort and health. In fact, when I read the challenges Courage nominees have faced, my trivial problems pale in comparison to these remarkable individuals.

And yet out of these stories of heartbreak and despair, somehow, each person finds the internal strength to persevere, to rise up and to ultimately spread their wings and soar. They find the courage to not just continue on, but to engage and inspire others and in so doing they are giving back to their communities.

If you speak to the frontline staff at Coast Mental Health, they can relate. Every day they work with people with mental illness: people who have endured significant hardship and have faced unimaginable odds in their battle with these sometimes-crippling diseases.

Mental illness is a thief, it robs you of your identity, it takes away your livelihood and it isolates you from your friends and family. It leaves you a shadow of yourself… alone and hopeless. And if diseases like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not bad enough, add to that stigma and discrimination, and a society that simply does not understand.

Yet Coast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day. Through counseling, intervention and care we see recovery. From our meal programs, clothing and supported housing we see restored dignity. And from life-skills training, education and employment programs we see a reduction of poverty.

We know that people can and do recover from mental illness and that they indeed can overcome.

We know that mental illness is simply another adversity and, with support, it too can be courageously beaten.

We are fortunate that the Courage To Come Back Awards give us a vehicle to deliver our message, to share our mission and to help us bring communities together.

And of course, most importantly, the annual Courage Awards introduce us to 6 remarkable recipients. People who deserve to be honoured and whose stories are so powerful they simply must be shared. Their stories overwhelm us with emotion, fill us with awe, and give us hope that within each of us exists that fearless hero.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit

“True heroism is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” ~Arthur Ashe


Courage To Come Back Mental Health Award

by Sandra Yuen MacKay, 2013 Courage To Come Back Award Recipient

sandra yuen mackayHow the Courage To Come Back Mental Health Award Award changed my life

Hello my name is Sandra Yuen MacKay. I received the Courage To Come Back award in 2012 in the mental health category. I struggled with mental illness for many years. Tormented by hallucinations and delusions and dealing with side effects of medications, I felt my life was over at many times. But I dug my way out and became an artist, writer and public speaker on recovery. I published a memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness to build awareness and reduce stigma.

A colleague who was also a friend thought I was worthy of this award and nominated me. That in itself was an honour.

One morning, the phone rang, I picked up the phone, and it was Mr. Lorne Segal telling me I had been chosen for this award. I was thrilled. When I received the award and stood in front of over 1000 people at the gala, my life was definitely transformed on personal level and in the way others perceived me.

I met the other recipients and during that short time, we shared a bond knowing the trials we’d been through and the joy we felt upon receiving our awards together. To be part of that experience at the gala, where people opened their hearts and gave toward the Coast Mental Health Foundation to help people in our community was profound. Generosity and humanity flowed in that room.

Since the award, I was named as one of five Faces of Mental Illness in 2012, a national campaign which included advocating to Members of Parliament and visiting the Governor General and his spouse in Ottawa.

The next fall, I spoke at a special event in Nanaimo, I was featured in a bus ad in Terrace, BC and I received a signed photo from the Minister of Defense praising me on my advocacy work. MP Don Davies called me from Ottawa to say how insightful my memoir was and encouraged me to write more. In 2013, I received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to the community.

All these things came on the heels of receiving the Courage To Come Back Award. The award played a large part in subsequent events and successes in my life.

There are others I know that deserve this award. People that have walked through fire and emerged ready to aid and inspire others, to give them the courage to move forward. Your child, sibling, relative, friend or colleague could be the next Courage To Come Back recipient.

So, if you know someone who you think is worthy of this award, I urge you to nominate him or her. And that person may one day stand and be acknowledged for their perseverance and dedication to giving back to others.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit


Courage To Come Back Awards Frequently-Asked Questions

Courage To Come Back Awards Nominations

How do I know who qualifies for a Courage To Come Back Award?

The person must be a resident of British Columbia and give consent to be nominated. Virtually anyone who has overcome difficulties and inspires you or others can be nominated. Visit the (nomination landing page) to read more about the process.

Does the person have to be living to be nominated for a Courage Award?


Can I nominate someone without telling them?

No, the person must agree to be nominated.

Can I nominate someone I don’t know, a celebrity or sports hero I admire?

You can, but it may be difficult for you to get their consent to be nominated.

What are the categories I can nominate someone in?

Addiction, Medical, Mental Health, Physical Rehabilitation, Social Adversity, and Youth. Youth nominees must be under 22 years of age as of December 31, 2015.

What is the last day I can submit a nomination?

The closing date for nominations is February 12, 2016.

Courage Nomination FormWhat if I don’t want to type into the online form?

You can click here to print a PDF of the form and simply follow the instructions.

If I send you the information or phone you, can you type it up for me?

Unfortunately due to limited staff time we cannot.

Do I have to buy a ticket to the gala dinner to nominate someone?

No. Nominations are free.

Can people be nominated again if they don’t win?

Yes, you can re-nominate someone next year. In fact, some people are nominated a few times before being chosen for an award.

Who selects the award recipients?

Several volunteer panels. No Coast staff member is allowed to vote.

What do the award recipients get?

Recipients receive, in addition to media exposure, a special vignette outlining their achievements and an award at the May 5th gala. After the gala, they receive a framed commemorative photograph and a DVD of the event.

Can I nominate someone who helped me through my illness/disability/addiction/life?

If they have helped someone to ‘come back’ they do not quality. It is the person who came back that qualifies for a Courage Award.

Can I nominate a group, organization or couple?

No, at this point we only accept nominations for individuals.

Can I nominate myself?


How much information do you need?

Just enough to tell the story. We don’t need a novel, but we need enough detail so that our independent volunteer panels can assess the submission. Each nomination must have at least 3 letters of support, and if you would like to send in copies of newspaper or online articles they will be added to the nomination form.

Do I have to tell all the details of the nominee’s life?

No, but we do need enough information to understand the nature of the illness, adversity or affliction. Honesty and corroboration are the best policy.

Can I send you my video / DVD / CD / book?

Not at this time. All materials must be able to be scanned.

Can I send in photos?

Yes but again they must be able to be scanned.

When are the award recipients chosen?

Every successful recipient will be contacted in late March. Unsuccessful nominees will receive a thank you letter and printed Certificate of Nomination in late March / early April.

If my name is chosen as a recipient, do I have to appear on television, radio and in print?

Yes, this is a requirement of receiving the award. There is no need to be nervous, however. The interviews are taped so you don’t have the worry of a live blooper, and yours is a ‘good news’ story so the reporters are friendly and sympathetic.

When is the gala dinner / awards presentation?

May 5, 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.

 To nominate someone who inspires you, visit