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Meet The Innovative Black Woman

But the group was full of white women and Matthews didn’t identify with anyone in the room. “Their issues were valid but their issues were not my issues,” Matthews says. “We’ve got to come up with our own plan.” Matthews recalls not being able to fully grieve her loss until two years later. “Loss is a loss of friendships, relationships, finances. It included a lot of loss beyond this baby. Everyone was concerned about the baby, but the baby is not here. Something is wrong with Kay. I couldn’t get people to understand that something was mentally not there. All of that didn’t allow me to grieve. I was struggling with who I was. I was just existing, not living,” she shares.


“Oftentimes, mental health is at the bottom of the checklist,” Kay Matthews, who founded the Houston-based nonprofit the Shades of Blue Project after she delivered her daughter stillborn in 2013, tells SELF. “We address the issues that have happened to the woman, but not necessarily how she feels about what has happened to her.”
Many new parents find their worries dismissed even when their feelings are beyond normal anxiety or baby blues, Matthews says. “It’s mentally straining, especially when you are surrounded by people telling you, ‘This is normal,’” she explains.

​8 Innovators Working for Real Changes to Maternal Health in America

​Addressing the mental health aspect of maternal health (especially within the minority community) is the Shades of Blue Project. It aims to "break the stigma surrounding seeking treatment in the minority community when experiencing complications after childbirth." Founded by Kat Matthews, a licensed community health worker, the organization uses social media as well as training sessions to educate the public on how to provide better mental health care for women of color.

​Why We Need Black Maternal Mental Health

Black women are at a higher risk for PMADs, compared to white women, but they are less likely to get treatment or to receive quality mental health care. Some of the reasons are:

  • Black women face more barriers receiving mental health care

  • Fewer black women are screened for PMADs and they are less likely to receive mental health follow-ups

  • Fear of being labeled as an unfit mom

  • Lack of trust in the health care system

  • It’s common for black women to mention physical symptoms related to mental health problems, instead of their emotions.  But providers can miss the diagnosis because many are unaware of these cultural differences.

Black Moms Are Suffering In Silence

“If all women receive the same quality of care, then there would be no need to have specific care for black women in the future,” says Kay Matthews, the founder of the Shades of Blue Project, an organization dedicated to helping minority women with PPD. “Acknowledgment, respect, and support are the three things that must be present in our care treatment because without it we continue to experience racism and lack of care every time we go into clinics and hospitals seeking treatment.”

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