Death by Pregnancy: Caring for the mental well-being of Black mothers is focus of Black Maternal Mental Health Week

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The Shades of Blue Project will host a week-long event beginning July 19 to educate, bring awareness, and increase activity surrounding Black Maternal Mental Health issues locally and nationally.

HOUSTON - Virginir -- Denise Williams, 29, was a Black mother of two. After the birth of her second child, she went to Queens Hospital Center in New York to be treated for postpartum depression. The reason for her death just 48-hours after being admitted remains unresolved. Her family is still without answers. Yes, Black maternal morbidity is on the rise and the numbers are higher than originally reported. According to a study by the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, Black mothers are 3.5 times more likely to experience death by pregnancy. Kay Matthews, founder of The Shades of Blue Project and Black Maternal Mental Health Week says the mental health of Black mothers is also a factor to the significantly higher numbers. Her organization is hosting a week-long event focused on Black maternal mental health and will launch with a press conference and balloon release on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 at Houston's City Hall - Hermann Square Park from 4 to 8 P.M.

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Black Maternal Mental Health Week to be held July 19 through July 25 includes an in-person training session, a two-day summit, a community awards brunch, a fundraising walk, and ends with a State of Black Maternal Mental Health Roundtable discussion.

"We have many issues in our city around mortality and morbidity and its ties to postpartum mental health complications," Matthews stated. "We've always had a problem, but what will we do to solve it?" she asked. Matthews and her collaborative partner, Kimberly A. Baker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health Promotion & Behavioral Science say they know that it will take "education, awareness, and action" to finally see a decrease in Black maternal morbidity.

The two-day hybrid summit will be held July 21-22. The location will be sent upon completion of registration. Matthews and Baker are excited the event is back in person and for the continued virtual component. Matthews grinned, "I'm excited to see people excited about it being in person."

This year's summit includes local, national, and international speakers. A partial list of speakers and topics includes:
  • Nathalie Walton of Expectful; Innovation in Maternal Mental Health
  • Titi Otunla, of Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, a Nurse-Midwife, and Carla Ortique, MD of The Women's Specialist of Houston at Texas Children's Hospital; Let's Talk: Addressing What's Killing Black Women Giving Birth (OBGYN & Midwives)
  • Marquita Stray of Imani's Light; A Deafening Silence - The Intersection of Black Birthing People, Perinatal Loss, and Disenfranchised Grief
  • Omari Maynard of The ARIAH Foundation, Kenn Harris of the National Institute for Children's Health Quality; and Shaugnn Thomas of Invest in Yourself; Fatherhood in the Black Community
This is the organization's fourth year hosting Black Maternal Mental Health Week and Matthews hopes the project is short-lived. "My goal is to no longer have a Black Maternal Mental Health Week 10 years from now," she said. Matthew hopes that through continued awareness, understanding, and action taken by her organization and other community partners there won't be a need for the event. "But until we reach that point, we'll continue to be here and show up," she affirmed.

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For registration, a complete list of speakers, and a full description of activities, please visit,

Lisa N. Alexander

Source: Shades of Blue Project
Filed Under: Non-profit

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