I was having lunch with two close female friends, A and K, on Saturday and we were sharing reflections on our weeks. One of my friends, A, attended the BRIA webinar about women and substance use that we hosted recently. She mentioned that she learned a lot and found the speaker Dr. Leslie Buckley, very informative and engaging. But there was also something else, A, said: “When we were growing up, we never would have heard two female professionals who are experts in their fields, talking to and teaching a group of people about a medical or scientific topic; probably not in an academic or medical setting, and definitely not in a public milieu.” Then A continued, “what you are doing with BRIA is really quite subversive.” I was taken aback at first by the use of the word “subversive” which usually has a negative and destructive connotation, but she meant it as a compliment. She used the word to suggest that BRIA is shaking up the way that traditional mental healthcare is delivered and that we are amplifying new and important female voices.
I have been thinking a lot about A’s comments and BRIA’s vision and mission. Our vision is: “Every woman can feel well, succeed, and find joy in their relationships and the wider community.” We strive to help people find excellent care, services, and support to help them get to a better place to jump into their lives and live life fully, without being burdened by severe stress or mental illness. (We are fully aware that there are many social determinants of health and well-being—poverty, racism, violence, and food scarcity, to name a few—that we cannot address directly and impact many of the people we see at BRIA.) And our mission is: “At BRIA, we continuously strive to provide forward-thinking, compassionate, and effective care for women as they navigate life’s most challenging chapters: fertility, pregnancy, motherhood, perimenopause, and beyond.”
But I think that A’s comments about how BRIA is “subversive” highlight something beyond our unique care model and our deep knowledge of how to help those who are struggling. We are doing something dramatically new and different by giving female experts a place to excel at work and a microphone and a platform for female experts to share knowledge.
We have created a place for amazing women to work together. The people who work at BRIA have been hand-picked for their knowledge and expertise around women’s health issues and everyone works together, pulling in the same direction. At a time when healthcare providers are burned out and overworked after three long years of the pandemic, it is thrilling, as female entrepreneurs, to have created a place of employment where people feel invigorated and excited to show up, contribute, and feel appreciated.
Plus, BRIA is showcasing and sharing the expertise of other incredible women via community and educational events. Culturally, we are living at a time when it is acceptable and comfortable, in many arenas, to talk about periods and perimenopause and sexuality, as well as about deep struggles, such as trying to get pregnant, dealing with depression and intense anxiety, aging minds and bodies, drinking too much, trauma, and coping with tremendous grief and perinatal loss. We want to de-stigmatize the reproductive journey and normalize conversations about IVF, premenstrual rage, postpartum anxiety, hot flashes, and dry vaginas.
While the explosion of open, wide-ranging topics may be part of everyday TikTok and Instagram for some, it is very new, sometimes embarrassing, and occasionally shocking for people above certain ages and from some backgrounds to talk about these things. BRIA is actively opening these conversations and educating Canadian women of all ages about a wide range of topics that most women deal with, but don’t know where to turn to for evidence-based information. As one person said after our illuminating perimenopause webinar from Nicole Schoeder, MSW, in the summer: “they can put a man on the moon, and THIS is the state of my menopause knowledge in 2022?? Thank you for educating me.” After our substance use webinar, another person said: “So much information provided by a woman who didn’t convey any sense of judgment. This is a far cry from the old approach to addiction when blaming and shaming seemed the order of the day.”
Showcasing the voices and work of outstanding female experts is part of BRIA’s raison-d’etre. Sharing the knowledge and expertise of front-line healthcare experts who can explain concepts clearly and compassionately is our goal. And we aim to normalize hearing expert information from women at the top of their game for ourselves and our children, who may be listening in beside us. This is also why we created BRIA.
BRIA will be the place for women’s mental health in Canada—whether that is for treatments, services, or cutting-edge educational events by world-class female experts—being subversive is part of our goal.