With alarming rates of anxiety and depression in the U.S., the need for accessible mental healthcare is critical. Yet, according to Mental Health America, around a quarter of U.S. adults don’t have access to necessary mental health treatment. This is a startling statistic. It means millions are unable to get critical, even life-saving treatment; last year alone, nearly 50,000 people died by suicide in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s why experts, including the current Surgeon General and all of his living predecessors, say we’re in the midst of a national mental health crisis.
Given the increasing magnitude of this crisis, I wanted to take the chance to speak with a founder who’s doing everything they can to make mental healthcare more accessible. Mandy Teefey is the cofounder and CEO of Wondermind, a company driven to tackle the stigma around mental health and create accessible mental healthcare resources. Throughout our discussion, Mandy addresses concerns on the current perception of mental health in the U.S. as well as her personal journey that inspired her to start a company based around the concept of mental fitness.
Liz Elting: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Could you please introduce yourself to the readers and tell us a bit about your career journey and how you’ve gotten to where you are today?
Mandy Teefey: Thank you, it’s so lovely to meet you. I’m Mandy Teefey. I’ve worn many titles in my lifetime, but being a mother to my two incredible daughters Selena Gomez and Gracie Teefey is certainly my proudest. I was raised in Grand Prairie, Texas, where mental health was never something openly discussed. My own mental health journey and my passion for storytelling has been a big part of my mission to change the narrative on how mental health is portrayed. Today, I’m the cofounder and CEO of Wondermind, as well as the founder and CEO of Kicked to the Curb Productions.
Elting: You’ve had quite a storied career in the entertainment industry. What led you to cofound Wondermind, a company centered around mental fitness? Was there something missing in the current mental health space you had identified, and if so, what was that?
Teefey: In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with bipolar II, and no matter how many doctors I saw or medications I tried, I just never felt grounded. In the aftermath, I was shocked to learn that I had been living with the wrong diagnosis and was later diagnosed with ADHD and trauma. That misdiagnosis meant I spent years of my life being improperly treated and medicated.
After years of struggling with health and mental issues as well as a new diagnosis, I wanted to push the mental health conversation forward, not just add to the noise. I realized there was no easy, inclusive space where people could come together to explore, discuss and navigate their feelings. So I thought, why not make it happen? Wondermind was born in 2022 as the world’s first mental fitness ecosystem on a mission to destigmatize and democratize mental health.
Elting: What problem does Wondermind solve for mental health? Why is this important for mental healthcare as an industry?
Teefey: We built Wondermind on the foundation that mental health should be accessible to everyone—unfortunately, unlike many mental healthcare resources in America. We’re not here to replace a therapist; we’re focused on building a community and foundation where people can have a safe place for feelings.
We want to meet the consumer where they are and grow with them as cofounders with mental health diagnoses. What a lot of people don’t realize is that mental health is for everyone. It’s not just for someone with anxiety or depression. Mental health affects all of us through our emotional, psychological and social well-being. We have the power to help others feel less alone by having raw, honest conversations—without the jargon and judgment—about our thoughts and feelings.
Elting: Wondermind is described as a mental fitness ecosystem, can you expand on what exactly mental fitness is and why you chose to focus on it? Where does mental fitness fit within the mental healthcare landscape? For example, is there a difference between mental fitness and traditional forms of mental healthcare, such as therapy?
Teefey: Mental fitness means working on your mental health—whatever that looks like to you. Showing up for your mental health doesn’t need to be one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Even if you’re lucky enough to see a therapist, making time for your mind in between sessions can go a long way.
Elting: Working in areas you’re most passionate about is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be challenging and consuming, often blurring the lines between work life and home life. How do you maintain balance and boundaries when running a company that’s intertwined with a personal passion? What do you enjoy most about working in mental health? What keeps you moving forward?
Teefey: This is something I am constantly working on everyday. I’m not perfect when it comes to balance and boundaries, but I try my best to make sure I carve out time to switch my brain from work to personal life. My happiest and most relaxing moments are when I spend time with my family or in nature, which is essential to recentering myself. Although I spend my days working in the mental fitness space, one way I create balance is by focusing on my own mental fitness routine. Whether it’s morning affirmations with my daughter Gracie or meditation on a Sunday, a consistent mental fitness routine keeps me from feeling overwhelmed when the lines do start to blur.
What I enjoy most about working in mental fitness is knowing that everything we do through Wondermind is touching someone’s life and helping them. This is a resource I wish I had growing up and evolving through my own mental health journey.
With any challenge I face, I just think about the people our work is helping and how we’re making these positive changes surrounding mental health that I want to see in the world for not only myself, but for my daughters. My hope is that in their lifetime, they (and their generation) will never have to feel shame discussing or sharing their own personal mental health journeys.
Elting: Mental health is at a crisis point in the U.S., with over 50 million Americans having experienced mental illness in some shape or form. Do you think more could be done to help those struggling with mental health in the U.S.? How does Wondermind navigate mental healthcare as a national issue?
Teefey: I think the most important step to assisting those with mental health needs is education to destigmatize how mental health has been presented historically. There is more awareness today, but we have a long way to go. We have to stand together on this mission in order to get to where we need to be.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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