I am Dr. Sherilyn Garner, MPH. I was born and raised in Demopolis, Alabama. I received my Bachelor of Science in Biology Comprehensive from the University of West Alabama in Livingston, AL. I went on to receive my Masters of Public Health in Health Care Organization and Policy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Doctor of Philosophy in Health Education and Promotion from UAB.
At the age of 15, I attempted suicide and was diagnosed with depression. As a teenager living in rural Alabama, I did not have access to treatment. I quickly learned to bury my feelings and ignore my diagnosis. As a result, I spent 11 years of my life battling the dark assassin, depression, untreated. In 2016, I took control of my depression and life. I started seeing a counselor and starting practicing yoga and meditation regularly.
I appreciate my life changes and wanted to create an organization whose mission is to provide a welcoming and safe mental health space to adolescents and their families from under-served communities. Through our programs, we focus on promoting mental health awareness and suicide prevention. We also equip our adolescents and their families with coping tools for stress, anxiety, feeling blue, etc, through yoga and meditation fundamentals. We empower adolescents to take control of their emotions through journaling. And, most importantly, we prioritize our adolescents and their families needs.
We are dedicated to creating culturally tailored programs and eliminating mental health disparities among adolescents and their families living in under-served communities. None of our work would be possible without investment from our communities. Your investment is vital to promoting mental health awareness. Thank you for all of your support!
Sherilyn Garner, PhD, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
A Friend of Mind
2.8 million people between the ages of 12-17 have at least one major depressive episode
2-15% of people who have major depression die by suicide
25% of people between the ages of 13-18 experience an anxiety disorder
6% of 13-18 year olds suffer from “severe” anxiety
10% of people between the ages of 3-17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10 - 24
Cutting and other self-harm begins between the ages of 12-15; girls are most likely to engage in self-harm than boys
board of directors
Sherilyn Garner, PhD, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Garner is a mother of three, Ava Denell, Emmitt Matthew, and Frances Corine. She is engaged to Michael Duckworth and they reside in Birmingham, AL with their children. Dr. Garner’s research interests include addressing mental health and sexual health disparities in minority populations. As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow 2018, she developed and implemented a mindfulness and yoga project titled “Peace. Love. Youth. (in) Yoga” to help adolescents living in the inner city improve their mental well-being. In the same year, she founded A Friend of Mind. To date, the organization has instructed yoga and meditation to over 400 adolescents and trained over 350 persons as suicide prevention gatekeepers. In 2020, to celebrate her mental health and suicide prevention work in Birmingham, Dr. Garner was awarded the Community Impact Award from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Student Leadership and Affairs.
Dr. Garner created A Friend of Mind to connect with adolescents who experience daily stressors and uncertainties and are unaware of how to cope with those stressors.
Justin is the Research Coordinator in the Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He received his Bachelors’ and Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from Auburn University. Since graduation, Justin has focused on increasing physical activity in persons with physical disabilities as a research assistant for RERC Rectech as well as an Exercise Physiologist in the Exercise and Sports Science Research Laboratory in the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative. Justin is also the Project Coordinator for Project BIPAMS which is focused on increasing physical activity and wellness in persons diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Justin is currently continuing his education by pursuing a Masters in Nutrition Sciences, Lifestyle Management & Disease Prevention. He has joined the AFM board to combine his interests of physical activity and nutrition to promote healthy behaviors among the youth in Birmingham. In his spare time, Justin enjoys touring the food of Birmingham, hiking with his dogs, and exercising.
Terralance De Shon Thurman is an Assistant Vice President and System Support Analyst with Wells Fargo. He is responsible for the management of enterprise-level computer systems supporting the Enterprise Information Technology Distributed Systems operations area within Wells Fargo.
Shon received a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Huron University and a Computer Technician Diploma from Virginia College.
Shon volunteers his time to several charitable organizations including Childcare Resources, Habitat for Humanity, Community Kitchens and the Birmingham Urban League.
Shon is affiliated with several civic and professional organizations, including Virginia Trace Homeowners Association serving as President, Childcare Resources (Past Chairman 2017), The Birmingham Urban League Young Professionals (Past President 2014-15), Birmingham Change Fund and Leadership UAB Class 2010.
Shon is a Chairman of the Birmingham Change Fund a giving circle of emerging African American leaders that pool their individual philanthropic gifts, professional talents and very limited time together for the purpose of making a bigger impact in the community.
In his leisure time, he enjoys many recreational activities and sports. He is member of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, where he volunteers in various ministries.
Claire E. Auriemma is a transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and she has called Birmingham home for the last several years. She works in administrative and financial management for research grants at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Nutrition Sciences. Her bachelor’s degree is in Print Media Communications and she is currently pursuing dual master’s degrees in Business Administration and Public Health with a concentration in Healthcare Organization and Policy. As a graduate student, she also serves as the Treasurer for the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) at UAB, and a peer
mentor for Disability Support Services through Delta Alpha Pi – the honor society for high
achieving students with disabilities. Her professional interests include social and environmental justice, health disparities research, disability access and inclusion, the relationship between sleep and mental health, housing stability, and economic empowerment for marginalized communities. From her own mental and neurological chronic illnesses, she finds motivation to advocate for others and fight against the stigma. In the few and far between moments of free time, Claire enjoys dancing, singing, and traveling. Her support system sustains her, and she would be lost without her loving husband, babies (two precious pit bulls, and two affectionate cats), and her faith.
Karin broke her back in a gymnastics vaulting accident and is most known for her wheelchair tennis accolades. She is a 2-time Paralympian and a 10-time member of the USA World Team. She was the first person with a disability to receive a Division 1 athletic scholarship to Georgia State University to play intercollegiate wheelchair tennis and has gone on to assist other universities in creating their own wheelchair tennis programs. She was named the USA’s Junior Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup Coach and led the top American juniors into international competition, where they are currently ranked number ONE in the world! Her induction into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame as its youngest inductee and only person with a disability, speaks to her unyielding commitment to foster and grow the sport of tennis to all those who wish to play. She also received the coveted “Gold Brick” in front of Arthur Ashe’s Stadium in Randy Snow’s Neighborhood. When asked about this honor she simply responded with: “Well, that brick is cute and everything and an amazing gift to my heart, however, it reminds me to continue building the legacy that the infamous Randy Snow started and that requires a whole lot of love for tennis, sport and humanity.”
She served on the coveted U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Paralympics Athletes Advisory Council for eight years representing seven sports which included Tennis, Table Tennis, Shooting, Archery, Equestrian, Powerlifting and Canoe/Kayak. She currently serves on the City of Birmingham’s Social Justice Committee as well as the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program’s PADD (Protection and Advocacy of Persons with Developmental Disabilities) Advisory Council. She is deeply passionate about inclusion of persons with disabilities at every level of sport and life. Her career in both advocacy and policy has spanned over two decades. She has worked with Lakeshore Foundation’s Lima Fox Trot Military program since its inception and is presently their Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator. In this capacity she leads the Lakeshore Foundation’s Leadership and Mentorship Program, the Women and Girls with Disability Summit, the Durable Medical Equipment research initiative and is the coordinator for the Global Sports Mentorship Program collaborative with the University of Tennessee’s Department
of Sport, Peace and Society and the U.S. State Department to name a few. Her love of humanity is often times referred to as “contagious” and her infectious enthusiasm for sport and a dignified life experience will leave you wondering: “What can I play and how can I be involved”. Korb refers to herself as a simple vehicle for service to and for others; “everything beyond that is a bonus.”
Karin holds an undergraduate degree in Public Administration from Kean University and a Masters of Sports Management from Georgia State University. She is a certified life coach with the International Coaches Federation and brings a highly diverse level of experience having worked with local, national and international clients of varying organizations to create ongoing opportunities for sports integration. Most recently, her efforts in sports diplomacy with the U.S. State Department and the International Tennis Federation Development Fund have taken her to Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Colombia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. If she is not working on a grant submission or immersed in programming you will find her meditating at the Shambhala Center where she is always focused on deepening her practice. You can often hear her saying: “Listen people, we must also do the bicep curls for our minds!” She is currently working on her MBSR certification (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and strongly supports integrative medicine, palliative and dignified end of life hospice care. She is a practitioner of many new thought spiritual practices which include, Pranic Healing, Eckankar, Religious Science and the Atlanta and Bradenton Dao Temples. She always has her eyes on the pulse of humanity and “how can we best represent the vision of inclusivity and most importantly, global respect.”
Timia Acklin is a Huntsville native who attended The University of Alabama at Birmingham, earning her bachelor’s in Healthcare Management. She continued her studies after being a part of the first cohort of the UAB Academy for Addressing Health Disparities through Healthcare Leadership and is currently a member of Class 54 in the Master of Science in Health Administration program at UAB. As an undergraduate and graduate student working within the residence halls on UAB campus, Timia has grown a passion for helping others through difficult times. Volunteering for the suicide prevention line at the Crisis Center, Timia became interested in all attributes of health and how past experience shape current experiences, feelings, thoughts and emotions. Her interest also include addressing health disparities, social determinants of health, children’s health and diversity, equity and inclusion in the healthcare industry. Timia enjoys spending time with her pup, Bear, is an avid shopaholic and is always working on a new DIY project in her spare time.
Alexis Mitchell, MSN, FNP-C
Alexis Mitchell is a family nurse practitioner with a strong emergency and critical care background. She is also a proactive mental and sexual health advocate and is originally from Mobile, AL. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she earned both her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Nursing, with a minor in Psychology. She has always integrated mental health awareness in her work, but suicide prevention became her passion after the suicide death of her father in 2018. She strives to be a beacon of light to all people and constantly informs others that they are not alone. Serving her local community with AFM awards her the opportunity to help combat stigma against mental health and the rising incidences of suicidality amongst minorities. She plans to continue her life’s work in the attainment of a Master’s in Public Health as well as a Doctorate in Nursing, both with concentrations centering behavioral sciences and health education.
Community Council Coordinator
Shuntá Holmes-LeBlanc has worked for more than 14 years in “Regulatory and Safety.” She started at Ventura Foods in 2005 as a Quality Control Auditor working in a food laboratory. She began work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2008 in the Department of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) as Health Physics Auditor in 2015 as a Health Physics Dosimetry Coordinator in the Radiation Safety program. In 2016, she was promoted to Research Health and Safety Coordinator in OH&S in the chemical safety program. She currently works in the Office of Institutional Review Board (IRB) as a Protocol Analyst II at UAB. Her educational background is in Biology with some graduate coursework in Microbiology. In her current position, she reviews protocols for human subject research. Also, she reviews contracts and subcontracts, Fee-For-Services, Data Use Agreements, and Material Transfer Agreements that involve Human Subjects Research. She also serves on the Institutional Biosafety Committees when the research entails Human Gene Therapy (HGT). During her graduate internship at UAB’s School of Education with Dr. Larrell Wilkinson, she was a Health Advisor for pending grants. She conducted literature reviews, data management/analysis, and publication generation. Ms. Holmes is also a Part-time adjunct professor/credentialed instructor in the School of Education at UAB, where she teaches Emergency Management and First Aid. She enjoys working in the community and would love to work as a Community Coordinator with A Friend of Mines (AFM) because she has witnessed the devastating effects that suicide, depression, and mental illness can have on an individual, a family, and a community. She has watched family and friends deal with depression and suicidal ideations on several occasions. She would be great working with AFM to help individuals, families, and communities address factors and circumstances that can lead to suicide, depression, and mental illness and work through these mitigating factors.
Community Council Coordinator
I am currently in the final months of my graduate education at UAB in obesity and diabetes and plan to stay in the Birmingham area for at least the next year. I am interested in working in non-profit and/or starting my own to promote mental health resources. I struggled with an eating disorder for a number of years and my recovery and journey through life has transformed with meditation, yoga, identifying internal values, journaling, etc. AFM has really resonated with me personally and I want these resources to be available to all individuals. I currently volunteer as a mentor and support group leader with ANAD (ED organization) and would like to contribute more to AFM as the community council coordianator. I am excited to help AFM grow and reach more youth!
Community Outreach Intern
Anna-Blake is an uprising Junior at Birmingham-Southern College where she is majoring in English Literature and Psychology. Her interest in mental health awareness began during the fall semester of 2019 when she had the opportunity to study Mental disorders in the academic setting. She learned about the stigmas the severity of each disorder and became passionate about help others overcome false beliefs in society. Inspired by this experience, Anna-Blake desired to become an advocate for this organization, A Friend of Mind. Anna-Blake aspires to pursue a career in Mental Health Counseling and become an advocate for those who have been silenced. When she is not busy, Anna-Blake loves to journal and read.
Community Outreach Intern
Ariana Sims is our Community Outreach intern. She is a native of Birmingham, AL. Ariana is currently a junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham majoring in Public Health. She plans to use her knowledge in public health to open her own family resource center and advocate for healthcare disparities. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, read, try new crafts, and spend time with her family.
Black Belt Region, AL
More information coming soon!
River Region, AL
More information coming soon!
More information coming soon!
Gulf of Mississippi
More information coming soon!
Question. Persuade. Refer. (QPR) is an interactive program that empowers individuals and communities to effectively intervene on behalf of suicidal and in-crisis people. Trainings are two hours and are offered at individual, organizational, and professional levels. Gatekeepers’ certificates will be provided to all participants who complete training. Find more information on QPR here https://qprinstitute.com/. or to host a QPR Training click here
PLY2 is an acronym for Peace. Love. Youth. (in) Yoga. PLY2 classes are offered in four, six, or eight week sessions. Each class will last for an hour and will introduce patrons to basic mindfulness and yoga techniques. The goal of each class is to increase self-awareness and foster courage, discipline, and respect for self and the community. To host a PLY2 program click here
MIND SET GO
This mentoring program creates sustainable and supportive mentor relationships for children in need ages 8-21. It matches youth with inspirational adult mentors who can guide them in developing better self-esteem, creating healthy relationships, and making positive life choices.
To become a Mentor click here
To become a Mentee click here
To have the program come to you click here
This virtual yoga option will provide youths with the opportunity to participate in yoga classes from the comfort of their home and/or community via Zoom. Classes are fit for youths ages 8 and up.
To register, click https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/afriendofmind.
Be sure to add how many classes you would like your child to participate in. Zoom information will be emailed to you once the payment is received.
Mental Health Resources
Active Minds: https://www.activeminds.org/
Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resources Coalition: https://www.asparc.org/
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/
Association of Black Psychologists: http://www.abpsi.org/
Black Mental Health: http://blackmentalhealth.com/
Black Youth Project: http://blackyouthproject.com/tag/mental-health/
Centers for Disease Control – Children’s Mental Health: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/index.html
Centers for Disease Control – Mental Health Home Page: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
Centers for Disease Control – Mental Health Quiz: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/quiz/index.htm
Half of Us: http://www.halfofus.com/
Mental Health America – Depression and Blacks: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-and-african-americans
Minding Your Minds – Student Resources: http://mindingyourmind.org/resources/for-students/knowledge/
National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Diverse-Communities/African-American-Mental-Health
National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/index.shtml
The JED Foundation: https://www.jedfoundation.org/