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Everything is bigger in Texas.
Especially “mums”—those big, flashy, expensive corsages of colorful streamers, bells, and trinkets that students wear for homecoming high-school football games.
Dawn Lee, a parent in Hickory Creek, Texas, has made and sold mums for years.
“God gives us all a unique talent and apparently, mine is knowing how and where to put the bling on an oversized corsage,” Lee said.
Lee recently decided to put her mum-making talent toward a good cause.
She had a question after seeing students and family members struggle with mental health issues: How could mums really help students talk about mental health?
Her answer: “Mindful Mums.”
Addressing Youth Mental Health Stigma
Lee has become increasingly aware of youth mental health issues.
Only 8% of Latino youth have ever used mental health care services. They encounter stigma, discrimination, language barriers, and other challenges to their mental health, according to the Salud America! research review on mental health.
For Lee, mental health touches close to the heart. She has seen family members struggle with mental health and had her own personal experiences.
She got inspired to give Latino and all kids happy memories and experiences.
She had made mums for several years, ever since her son was in pee-wee football in the mid-2000s. She wanted to take her mums and make something significant, something that students and others could feel good about.
“Kids are hungry for an opportunity to share their feelings and experiences, and to talk about what is going on with them,” Lee said. “Every time you hide your sickness, it gets worse and bigger.”
Homecoming Mums to Mindful Mums
Lee had a big idea for what she called “Mindful Mums.”
She could make mums that are smaller and less flashy—with proceeds going to mental health agencies—to increase awareness of mental health issues, offer messages of hope for recovery, and start conversations among students.
Students could learn about mental health, and make great memories at homecoming.
“Everyone wants a shiny face, but underneath, if we say it’s OK to talk about it, we allow people to get better,” Lee said.
Fortunately, Lee’s friend, Sue Ridnour, is a passionate member of the board for Youth & Family Counseling in Denton County (20% Latino), which provides services to improve the mental health of all citizens, regardless of socioeconomic background.
They loved the idea.
They loved it so much that they connected with Okay to Say, which enables counseling and talking as the first step to removing the stigma from mental health.
Each Mindful Mum contains swag like an “Okay to Say” badge with a helpful website to start conversations about mental health, and a button about Youth & Family Counseling.
These mums aim to make it OK for youth to talk, to let them know they are not alone, and to show that there are resources in the community to help them, Lee said.
The Beginning of a Change
Brand awareness was the first big hurdle for Mindful Mums.
The team uses social media, fundraisers/raffles at various school events, talking to school personnel to talk to students about the mums project, and donating a set to the Lewisville Education Foundation Scholarship event.
The fundraiser showed people a new, creative way to make donations to organizations that matter.
“Youth & Family Counseling has been great about opening up to a creative, out-of-the-box fundraiser,” Lee said.
The project really took off on social media.
Moms on social media were thrilled to learn of the project.
The most meaningful feedback was from a high-school student who read about Mindful Mums from a local news article. This young girl explained how much it meant to have someone starting a project to raise awareness about mental health.
Lee said she is proud that she found a place that touches people, and that people are hungry for different options. Ridnour explains how every time she is involved in something, she is amazed every time at how high school students are kind and thoughtful, that they’ve had an impact on them, and they want to be able to help.
In just the first year, they sold 31 Mindful Mums, raising over $700 in proceeds.
A mum raises $25 dollars and a garter $15 for Youth & Family Counseling. These donations amounts are for every mum that is sold regardless of size. Dawn does take in donations for old mums/garters. She keeps her cost down by up-cycling and recycling for repurpose.
Lee expects demand for Mindful Mums to increase. There is a great need for people to know about Mindful Mums and the great reason behind it, Lee said.
“If everybody does a little bit to make the world better, then we can have a better community,” she said.
Awareness through a Creative project
Mindful Mums is building youth awareness to mental health, and the resources Youth & Family Counseling offers. The mums also let kids know they have peers that are willing to talk about it, and that they are not alone.
For Lee, this project has shed some light on other schools. She was shocked to learn some schools have clubs with programs specific to mental health issues.
She realized that after starting Mindful Mums, it means a lot to the kids to have mental health be an open topic of discussion.
Lee hopes that Mindful Mums becomes a trend in schools. Allowing student organizations to sell mums to benefit a local cause. She would love to see Mindful Mums go statewide.
After many years of creating mums for a hobby, she has grown from liking it, to loving it.
Now Lee feels like she is crafting for a cause, for as purpose. Her talent for crafting mums has driven a positive change in her community.
If your not sure about starting a change in your community, Lee knows how you feel. She was in those same shoes.
“Even if your afraid, do it any way,” Lee said.
“Don’t underestimate the ripple effect.”
What mental health organizations in your community can you support?
Have an idea, let us know!
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.