Maternal mental health focus of upcoming conference | Local News

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Demonstrators march in June to SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital for maternal justice in Madison. Black women are more likely than white women to have preterm births and to give birth to babies with low birthweight, which can have long-term implications for a child’s future development.   

The 2020 Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference, to be held online this month and hosted in Madison, will look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected diverse communities in politics, business, incarceration, preventive services and health care.

Organizer Shonita Roach, of Madison, said the event, held for the first time last October in Milwaukee, aims to bring awareness to the mental health needs of pregnant women and mothers from various cultures and to services available to help them. Many women suffer postpartum depression or other problems in silence, said Roach, whose 21-month-old son died in Chicago in 2002.

“This is a way to really highlight and amplify their voices and their experience,” said Roach, legislative co-chair for the Wisconsin chapter of Postpartum Support International.

Shonita Roach


Roach said the death of her son, Earwin, was accidental. Prosecutors initially charged her with first-degree murder, however, saying she pushed a box spring and mattress onto him and suffocated him, according to the Chicago Tribune. A spokeswoman for Roach said the case was pleaded down to involuntary manslaughter, and Roach spent two-and-half years in prison. Court records were not readily available.

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A press release for the conference, to be held Oct. 22-24, said Roach experienced childhood sexual trauma and grew up in foster care before eventually graduating from college. After her son’s death, she received “extensive psychological care, therapy, parenting classes and spiritual healing,” the release said.

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