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
Community Outreach Intern
Ariana Sims is our Community Outreach intern. She is a native of Birmingham, AL. Ariana is currently a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in human development and family studies and addiction and recovery. She plans 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.
Community Outreach Intern
Sama Halima is our Community Outreach Intern. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery from India, she entered the field of health behavior and promotion to explore her passion for mental health and suicide prevention awareness. Sama is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her plan for the future is to run a suicide prevention organization and promote healthy living. Some side hustles she's working on are learning to play the ukulele and trying her hand at digital art.
Registered Yoga Instructor
Lizzy Dvorak is currently a junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a Public Health major with a concentration in Global Health and minor in Chinese. Through her own lifelong struggles with mental health, she became interested in finding ways to advocate and spread awareness for those unable to. Her studies in public health inspired her to pursue a role in A Friend of Mind and reach out to those affected by mental disorders. Lizzy aims to use her gained knowledge and experience to work in a low-income country. Her time to unwind includes hiking with her goldendoodle, working out, journaling, and listening to music.
Mariama Stevenson is a current BA/MPH student at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. A current undergraduate senior, she is majoring in an individualized major. She is also concentrating in Global Health for her Masters in Public Health. Dedicated to serving her community. Mariama has been an active member both within her school and community. At NYU, she has served on the Muslim Student Association and Black Muslim Initiative boards and has been an active member of the Islamic Center at NYU and Islamic Relief. She is also a Fellow at The Opportunity Network. A fun fact about Mariama is that she can speak four languages: English, Fulani, Arabic, and Wolof. Mariama is our Chilombo Scholar. At the end of her internship she will be a nationally certified QPR Instructor, trained to teach persons how to recognize the signs of a suicide crisis. Additionally, Mariama is responsible for creating mental health promotion and suicide prevention awareness resources, specifically for the Muslim community in New York.
Research and Evaluation Intern
Esther Ajayi is our Research and Evaluation intern. She is currently a second-year graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pursuing a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. Esther is dedicated to community service and social justice, and as a servant leader, many of her experiences are centered around advocating for and working with vulnerable populations and communities. She enjoys spending her free time with family and friends, listening to music, and trying new things. As our Research and Evaluation intern, Esther is responsible for conducting community needs assessment for each area in which we have a chapter. Esther will also conduct a community needs assessment for her community in Chicago and compare the results. At the end of her internship, Esther will evaluate our programs and create evaluation surveys based on the information concluded from the community needs assessment.
My name is Shelby West, I’m 23 years old, and I’m a current MPH student with a concentration in Epidemiology. My story has been one of chronic pain from unrelenting migraines, so much so that contemplating suicide seemed like an easy way to make the pain stop. I also developed panic attacks from Organic Chemistry in my time as an undergraduate at Tennessee Tech University. Through love and support from my family, I have been able to push past the dark in my life to pursue things I never dreamed of, including getting a master’s degree.
My home life consists of my husband Alec, who is a software engineer, and my dog Becky, who likes to nap. My favorite hobbies include cross-stitching, true crime or mystery podcasts, and binge-watching things on Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+. I am so excited to get to know all of you, and can’t wait to use my experiences to help others through A Friend of Mind!
I received my bachelor’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health. I am currently a second-year graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham pursuing a master’s degree in Accelerated Epidemiology. Having personal experiences with mental health, I have always looked for ways to be an advocate for people who cannot advocate for themselves. I have had the opportunity to be a UAB Mental Health Ambassador on UAB’s campus and help spread awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health. In addition to being a student, I am a certified youth girls soccer coach for Hueytown, Alabama. I aim to start a non-profit that supports Muslim women and children in low-income countries with the population’s mental, physical and spiritual health to spread awareness and resources. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends and partaking in activities of being outdoors, playing soccer, hiking or picnicking.
My name is Jennifer Martin, I’m 33 years old, and I’m a current MPH student with a concentration in Health Behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I’m excited to be an intern with A Friend of Mind because I feel that there is a definite need for more mental health resources and advocacy especially among adolescents and young adults. As a student, I have had my fair share of anxiety as well and I have certainly benefited from the coping skills I have learned along the way ranging from meditation, fitness, and mindfulness in what I eat, think, and do. I have a passion for fitness and nutrition not only when it comes to disease prevention but also mental health promotion!
When not busy with school, I also work as an assistant manager at a therapeutic massage studio, and I run a small business called Amber Waves where I make and sell handmade jewelry. In my downtime, I enjoy working out, cooking, going to concerts and 10-Pin bowling which is something I have done since I was a kid!
During my internship with A Friend of Mind, I look forward to researching evidence based methods and practices for mental health promotion and contributing educational and meaningful content to the blog and social media platforms.
Black Belt Region, AL
More information coming soon!
More information coming soon!
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
Youth Talk United Partnership
We are excited to announce that we have partnered with Youth Talk United to offer mentoring services.
What We Do
Youth Talk United offers youth and young adults a variety of supportive services designed to provide them with the life skills they need to successfully deal with issues they may encounter in their daily lives, while preparing them for a smooth transition into the real world.
We have two primary service pillars:
Youth Mentorship: We provide girls ages 12-18 and boys ages 10-18 with counseling, community service opportunities, academic support, college success programs, and team sports mentorship in our Youth Talk program. We also provide young adults ages 18-24 with support and resources that encourage positive, successful college and career prep opportunities in our Future Leaders program.
Family Support: We also provide mentorship to parents of the youth involved in our Youth Talk and Future Leaders program, as well as service referrals and resource connection as needed.
Who We Serve
We serve a diverse community of families who reside in the Greater Birmingham area. Youth ages 10-24 are currently eligible to participate in our programs.
To learn more about becoming a mentor or mentee, click http://www.youthtalkunited.org
Erika Perry- Founder 205-276-9585
Martrece Bell- Volunteer & Parent Coordinator 205-213-9102
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/