Exploring women’s mental health beyond self-care - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Exploring women’s mental health beyond self-care

May 16, 2024

Matricia Bauer, Brandi Gruninger, and Tanaura Seon speaking at Women United’s event, MindFULL: A Candid Conversation on Women’s Mental Health
Matricia Bauer, Brandi Gruninger, and Tanaura Seon speaking at Women United’s event, MindFULL: A Candid Conversation on Women’s Mental Health.

Women’s mental health advocates Matricia Bauer, Brandi Gruninger, and Tanaura Seon answer your important questions
about women’s mental well-being, exploring the nuanced societal and systemic barriers women face today.


United Way’s Women United recently hosted MindFULL: A Candid Conversation on Women’s Mental Health, a thought-provoking event where personal stories were shared, insights were gained, and connections were made. Attendees explored the nuanced challenges women face in maintaining their mental health in today’s society.

Women’s mental health is a multi-faceted landscape. Messages bombard women daily, dictating how they should look and act, what they should eat, how they should age all while pressuring them to do it all, and do it BETTER. It’s time to reject the tired notion that women can preserve their mental well-being by practicing self-care alone.

The event aimed to shift the focus from individualized self-care to a collective understanding of the societal and systemic barriers that impact women’s overall well-being and success. Through strategic partnerships and programs, United Way leads the way in building a strong community where everyone has the resources and support to thrive mentally, emotionally, and socially.

The event featured three remarkable speakers, each bringing a unique perspective to the conversation:

Matricia Bauer, the visionary leader behind Warrior Women, an Indigenous mother-daughter drumming group rooted in tradition, offered insights into the intersection of culture, tradition, and mental health.

Brandi Gruninger, a psychologist and passionate advocate for women’s mental health, provided a clinical perspective, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional help.

Tanaura Seon, a United Way impact speaker and long-term volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association, shared her personal experience to highlight that everyone needs help sometimes and no one has to feel alone.

Following the event, we connected with Matricia, Brandi, and Tanaura to ask them some of the questions our attendees had about women’s mental health to continue this vital conversation.


If you are looking for mental health resources, you can contact the confidential 211 Alberta information line for available supports in your area. 

How do you decipher what you truly value compared to what you’ve been TAUGHT to value?

Matricia Bauer

Values are complex and made up of both lived and learned experiences. Deep down, everyone has core values and universal truth. You just need to look within.


Tanaura Seon

This takes work and introspection. Our values are formed from so many different factors, and they can also evolve over time. Quiet contemplation over what is happening in our lives and what brings us joy can really cause a shift in perspective. I know for myself; I try and sit down once a year and really evaluate what is working and not working in my life so I can make changes to enhance my happiness.


Brandi Gruninger

You can use a values exercise to help you determine this. Here is a simple one:

  1. Find a list of values online and use your instincts to choose your top five, in order.
  2. List your daily activities by half hour increments for one week.
  3. Match each activity to a corresponding value from the original list of values you found online.
  4. Compare the values chosen in step one to the values indicated in step three.

Often these are not aligned, and we can see where we need to make changes.


What is the one lesson in your mental health journey that you have to keep on learning over and over again?

Matricia Bauer

To forgive and forget, but I find that time helps.


Brandi Gruninger

For me, it’s constantly evaluating who I really am versus who I thought I was. I am always evaluating myself. What am I actually good at? What do I really enjoy? Can I step into a new part of my identity that I wasn’t able to embrace before? I am always learning to grow my sense of self and stepping outside of the boxes I have put myself in.


Tanaura Seon

We’re all constantly learning. Once you feel like you have it all figured out, something will change and cause you to take a step back. It’s important to look at the step back as part of a dance, and remember you’ll move forward again. We are all on our own learning journeys.

How can we empower women to prioritize their mental health without them feeling guilty or selfish?

Matricia Bauer

We can start by de-stigmatizing receiving help. We need to normalize mental health and accept that taking care of our mental wellbeing is just as important as brushing our teeth or getting a mammogram.

Tanaura Seon

Mental health IS health. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Women need to take care of themselves first, so that we have the energy to care for others. In that respect, it is not selfish to care for yourself! We deserve the love, care, and empathy that we so freely give to others.


Brandi Gruninger

The first step is the mindset shift. When we start to feel guilty, we need to make a logical argument for our need to put our mental health first. Is it cost-effective? Is it proactive? Is it necessary for us to be better for others? Then it’s about behaviour. Make a plan. Get supplies. Schedule the time. Book that therapy session. Arrange childcare. Ask your partner to pick up some slack.


What role do economic and financial security play in a woman’s mental health?

Matricia Bauer

Excellent mental health services are expensive and aren’t always affordable, or available in rural areas.


Brandi Gruninger

We cannot focus our energy to solve mental health problems if our underlying needs are not met. Financial hardships affect one’s basic physiological needs for shelter, nutrition, and safety. If these needs aren’t met, women cannot work on higher level needs, like their mental health.


What’s your best piece of advice for how we can show up and support other women?

Matricia Bauer

Start within and heal yourself first. You are no help to your community unless you’ve done the work yourself. Right now, in the First Nation community there is a lot of lateral violence, and we really must counter with lateral kindness. “Showing up” can be as simple as just being present and offering a cup of tea.


Brandi Gruninger

The best thing we can do is to be vulnerable and authentic. When someone asks how you are, be honest. If you’re having a tough day, say you’re having a tough day. Not everyone is going to respond well to this, and that’s okay. Some people might be uncomfortable, but others will appreciate honesty, offer support, and share their own struggles. These real conversations are the best start.


Tanaura Seon

Be vocal. Often, we feel like we’re all alone with our struggles. Like no one else is having a hard time, and there’s something wrong with us. Share your struggles. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be willing to share your own experiences, because it makes it so much easier for other people to say, “me too”.


These answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Group of six women pose for a photo at Women United’s event, MindFULL: A Candid Conversation on Women’s Mental Health

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