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.
Amber Abrams, MD
Dr. Abrams moved to Birmingham, AL in 2010 for college. At the time, she did not know she would eventually call this place home. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology and then obtained her medical degree, both at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She is now completing a psychiatry residency at UAB. Dr. Abrams has a passion for working with underserved populations. Throughout her training, she has worked in free clinics (both medical and psychiatric) and headed organizations aimed at increasing access to care. As an executive member of the Global Health Interest Group in medical school, she organized events that increased the knowledge of unique health concerns of marginalized populations both domestic and international. Through the Psychiatry Interest Group, she coordinated a free clinic run by medical students and residents that helped uninsured people receive psychiatric care. Dr. Abrams’s personal experience with mental health issues in family and friends, the lack of access to care, and the stigma with receiving psychiatric care fueled her desire to become a psychiatrist. Since embarking on this journey, she realized the disparities of care are not only due to the lack of access but also due to clinicians not fully understanding the population they are treating. Having a more diverse workforce in psychiatry is likely to lead to more accurate diagnoses, decreased stigma in minority populations, and more effective treatment for these individuals. Not only does Dr. Abrams advocate for underserved and minority populations to seek psychiatric care when needed, but she also advocates for more minorities to join the mental health field.
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!
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/