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In recognition of October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, “Shades of You, Shades of Me,” (SOYSOM) a maternal mental health advocacy organization, is proud to host the 2020 Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference (www.soysom.com), an interactive, virtual event that brings together mental health professionals, policymakers, medical providers, doulas, advocates and community leaders from diverse backgrounds to have informed, community-focused conversations surrounding maternal mental health. Hosted in Madison, WI, this special event will be broadcast virtually on October 22-24, 2020.

Attendees can expect an exciting and informative forum with engaging and timely conversations surrounding the importance of culturally responsive care and services from top professionals, advocates and allies from all backgrounds, including Latinx, Asian, African-American, LGBTQIA, Native, Hmong and more. This year’s theme, “COVID-19 + Multiculturalism in Maternal Mental Health Care” will spotlight how the global pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities through a variety of sectors, including politics, business, incarceration, prevention services and healthcare. In order to offer an introductory bridge into speaking about mental health needs, the conference invites women at home to submit anonymous testimonials about their own challenges of motherhood, allowing for a personal connection to be felt by all virtual attendees.

Maternal mental health is a major issue in the United States that is often overlooked and underfunded, especially in minority communities. Studies show that minority populations have less access to mental health facilities and services (Source: Eliminating Mental Health Disparities by 2020: Everyone's Actions Matter, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry). In addition, the added stress and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic puts pregnant and postpartum women specifically at risk and further limits access to mental health services (Source: Maternal mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, NIH). Because of this, SOYSOM is committed to bringing awareness to the specific mental health needs of women from diverse backgrounds, including the need for increased culturally competent mental health practitioners, increasing the national conversation surrounding policy that affects mental health services of diverse patient populations and dismantling stigma of mental health and women's reproductive needs and services for minority populations.

“We are honored to host the 2020 Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference in a virtual capacity this year, so we can reach more people all across the country,” said Shonita Roach, founder of SOYSOM and Executive Director of the conference. “As a young mother who personally experienced depression and was in need of mental health services and support, I know first-hand how lonely and challenging it can be trying to juggle it all. Black, Hispanic, Native American, and other non-white women suffer disproportionately to white women and that is my motivation and inspiration for this conference: to debunk misconceptions about mental health and help other mothers from all backgrounds feel secure and confident in their journey through motherhood so they feel empowered to reach out if they are in need of support.”

Roach’s journey to becoming an advocate for maternal mental health is one of loss, trauma, but also perseverance and redemption. Even after experiencing childhood sexual trauma by age four and growing up in the foster care system, Roach grew to be a bright young woman, excelling in academia in high school and graduating from college. In 2002, she experienced the ultimate trauma, the accidental death of her 21 month old child, in which she experienced postpartum depression and even contemplated suicide. After receiving extensive psychological care, therapy, parenting classes and spiritual healing, Roach is now a maternal mental health advocate for women of color, inspiring her to create the SOYSOM organization.

“I would never want any woman to experience the extensive trauma, heartbreak and suffering in silence the way I did. My life experiences have shifted me to devote my energy towards advocating for all women to receive quality and accessible care during the perinatal time period. If we want tangible and substantial change for mothers of color, we must talk to them and learn from them, so that every mother thrives, which is our goal with the 2020 Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference.”

Tickets are now available on the conference website, with individual sessions beginning at $89.95 and full conference passes priced at $300. For more information, including conference sponsorship opportunities or ticket sales, please visit www.soysom.com. For the most up to date highlights on the conference, use hashtag #DevotionStartsWithin on social media.

About Shades of You, Shades of Me:

Shades of You, Shades of Me is an organization that is committed to helping women of color advocate for maternal mental health. The organization is proud to host the 2020 Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference on October 22-24, 2020, an interactive, virtual conference bringing together professionals, advocates and moms from diverse backgrounds to have informed, community-focused conversations surrounding maternal mental health. For more information, please visit www.soysom.com.


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