StayWhole Foundation Focuses On The Importance Of The Mental Health Journey

When Jaitesha “Tesh” Hanson attended college at the University of North Florida on a full-ride basketball scholarship, she realized how many athletes struggle with mental health. It affects them not only in the game but also at home and in their personal lives.

Armed with the knowledge and a desire to help the athletic community, Tesh started StayWhole Foundation as a Florida non-profit in 2019. In the beginning, the focus was specifically on athletes, but after a while, the mission shifted to focusing on wellness for everyone.

“The mission of StayWhole is to bring many populations together with the understanding that you need physical, mental, and spiritual balance in order to live a ‘Whole’ life,” said Hanson. “StayWhole was created with the focus of athletes being the main population impacted, but as time evolved we have rebranded to be focused on wellness and its many components in mind, body, and spirit. The athletic portion is still alive though! We have an athletic program headed by a former division one athlete.”

While many programs focus mostly on helping individuals who are already suffering from mental health issues, StayWhole strives to be proactive. The organization emphasizes preventive measures and aims to educate the public on mental health and how they can deal with issues such as anxiety, stress, self-esteem, and emotions.

“The proudest moment has been that during the rebranding of StayWhole we had many emails and many people sending in stories or requesting to make a podcast with us,” said Hanson. “The demand for StayWhole as a safe space to share was growing… We are truly humbled to know people want to share their moments with us and now join us in person for learning experiences.”

Currently, the organization has about 10-15 members and continues to expand. But as the foundation grows, so have the challenges. “We hope to have an athletic facility with multipurpose rooms where we can help all populations and facilitate multitudes of programs,” said Hanson. “The greatest challenge is being patient and understanding that the universe is doing all the work, you just have to focus on each day and each goal one step at a time.”