Local mental health nonprofit expands services to four new regions

A Friend of Mind
A Friend of Mind provides tools, such as yoga, for coping with stress and anxiety. Photo via A Friend of Mind

Birmingham-based nonprofit, A Friend of Mind is now extending its mental health services to four new regions—Black Belt, River, Atlanta and the Gulf of Mississippi. Through the expansion, the team aims to bring a safe mental health space to adolescents and their families from underserved communities. We spoke with founder Dr. Sherilyn Garner, MPH, to discover how her team is eliminating the mental health stigma.

A Friend of Mind promotes mental health awareness 👏

A Friend of Mind
Founder Sherilyn Garner (right) and board members Alexis Mitchell (left) and Claire Auriemma (middle) at Montgomery’s State House. Photo via A Friend of Mind

Led by Dr. Sherilyn Garner, MPH, A Friend of Mind uses programs to focus on promoting mental health awareness and suicide prevention. If you don’t know where to turn, Dr. Garner and her team will provide a path.

Dr. Garner says she spent over a decade, the majority of her adolescent years, living with untreated depression. Creating the nonprofit is a step forward in ensuring teens won’t face that same experience.

“When I founded the nonprofit in 2018, I prioritized being able to provide services in my hometown of Demopolis, Alabama and surrounding areas including the River Region.

I want to ensure that adolescents living in underserved and rural Alabama have awareness of mental health and access to relevant services and no adolescent goes a decade without the help they need.”

Dr. Garner

The organization offers tools for coping with stress and anxiety such as yoga, meditation, journaling and other helpful mechanisms. Their mission is to prioritize the adolescents they work with and their families’ needs.

Time to expand

A Friend of Mind
Meditation is another tool A Friend of Mind encourages for coping with anxiety. During Minority Mental Health Month, A Friend of Mind even hosted free yoga classes at Veterans Park. Photo via a Friend of Mind

Now, with the expansion into four areas of Alabama and Atlanta, each new chapter will be able to cater to its specific location and demographic. The Black Belt Region chapter officially launched on September 12, 2020, and Dr. Garner anticipates the following areas will launch by mid-2021. 

With the pressure COVID-19 has put on individuals, it’s the ideal moment for A Friend of Mind to increase their services throughout the state and surrounding area. A key part of the expansion is delivering specific services based on the demographic in each respective area.

“The Black Belt Region chapter will cater to predominantly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) adolescents and families. The River Region chapter will cater to predominantly white adolescents and families. The Gulf of Mississippi will cater to a mixed races of adolescents and families. Finally, the Atlanta chapter will cater to LGBTQ+ adolescents and families.”

Dr. Garner created the nonprofit with a goal to assist those who face daily stressors. So, making their programs available to a wider breadth of the community when stress is increased with each action we take couldn’t come at a more pertinent time.

“Even though COVID did not play a factor in any decision to expand to the new areas, having mental health services accessible to underserved populations and areas is crucial to mental health promotion during the pandemic.”
 

Learn more about A Friend of Mind through their website, Facebook and Instagram. Want to get involved? Consider donating or becoming a volunteer by contacting afriendofmind@gmail.com.