Carol Ackley

Carol Ackley, BSW, CPRS

Peer and Volunteer Specialist

Carol Ackley is the Peer and Volunteer Specialist at Mental Health America of the MidSouth.  She attended Penn State University and received her bachelor of social work degree from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. In addition to working with populations in the mental health field, she has worked in probation, aging and Alzheimer’s, inpatient alcohol treatment, and with persons with special needs. Carol is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist in Tennessee and previously in New York State.  She has been a Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor since July 2016, a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor since September 2018, a WRAP Facilitator since April 2018, and a National Certified Peer Specialist since May 2019.

Mike Anderson

Michael Anderson

Upper Cumberland Regional Director

Michael is a native of the Upper Cumberland region. He studied mechanical engineering at Tennessee Technological University before finding his passion for the field of human services working as a volunteer with the Children’s Miracle Network, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and later, serving persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the roles of program compliance director and executive director for Pacesetters Incorporated. He has stayed active in the community through civic outreach programs like Leadership Putnam and the Citizen’s Fire Academy of Cookeville. He is also accredited through the Crisis Prevention Institute, the American Safety & Health Institute, the Tennessee Safety and Health Council, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, LivingWorks, and the Jason Foundation. He has experienced loss from suicide twice in his lifetime and is resolved to be a resource to the Upper Cumberland by raising public awareness of the issue and working to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts.

Lindsey Carr

Lindsey Carr, BS

Southwest Tennessee Regional Director

Lindsey Carr is a Jackson, Tennessee, native. Originally believing engineering was her path, Lindsey quickly realized she had passion to serve people in a different capacity. After graduating from Bethel University with a bachelor’s degree in human services, Lindsey first became a health coach under a state-funded grant program called My Health, My Choice, My Life. She was able to travel the grand division of West Tennessee to various peer-support centers, teaching self-management skills to those with lived experience in mental health or substance misuse.

When the program ended, Lindsey went on to become the project director for the Jackson-Madison Prevention Coalition, which focuses on the prevention of drug misuse among youth. She was able to cultivate and grow the Youth Advisory Council, which comprised high school students from all major high schools in Jackson. Their focus was developing peer-led strategies for drug prevention, giving youth a voice in the types of messaging being delivered. After two successful years with the Coalition, Lindsey went on to become the Coordinator. In that role she was able to oversee four state-funded grants, all focused on the prevention, treatment and recovery from substance misuse. Lindsey has been happily married since October of 2015 to her husband and best friend, Tyler, and you can often find them spending time with friends and family, riding roller coasters, and catching the latest new releases at the local Redbox.

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Camille Carter, MEd

Case Manager

Camille Carter is a case manager for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum or other refuge in the United States. She visits the home of the minor and his or her family after the minor has been reunified with a sponsor. Camille ensures that the minor is safe, and the family has what it needs to be successful. Camille also conducts home studies prior to the minor’s release from a shelter to make sure the home is safe for the minor. Some examples of things she does while she is working with families include helping enroll the child in school, finding free or low-cost medical and mental health services, and completing forms to send to immigration court if needed. Camille has her master’s degree in education and TESL certification from the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. She has worked with immigrants since 2010 by helping with literacy and teaching ESL. Camille enjoys traveling whenever possible, especially to Latin America, spending time with loved ones and taking hikes.  

Jackie Cavnar

Jackie Cavnar, MBA

Chief Operating Officer

Jackie Cavnar joined Mental Health America of the MidSouth in 2017. Jackie’s background in public relations coupled with her MBA in healthcare management and nonprofit management equips her to lead the day to day operations while keeping a strategic eye on the future. Previously, Jackie has worked in community development and physician recruitment for a nonprofit entity and a national hospital organization. She has also worked as a healthcare market analyst for an international corporation. Jackie holds a bachelor’s in communications from The University of Tennessee, where she serves on the College of Communication and Information Board of Visitors, and an MBA from Lipscomb University, where she serves on the Dean’s Board for the College of Business. In 2017, the Public Relations Society of America’s Nashville Chapter honored Jackie with its Hercules Award for her dedication to the profession and the community. Jackie currently represents MHA on the Rural Health Association of Tennessee board of directors, and she serves as the executive director of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association.

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Mary Anne Christian, EdS

South Central Tennessee Regional Director

Before joining the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, Mary Anne worked as an educator before transitioning to a school administrator in both private and public schools in Tennessee and Alabama. Since beginning her career in education, she experienced a need for working with the mental and emotional issues faced by students. As a school leader, she worked closely with the school counselors to coordinate behavior plans and improve the mental health of the students and the staff. She has also experienced several students who had suicidal ideations. She has witnessed the increased need for mental healthcare in communities, as well as, the need to educate communities about mental health and eliminate the mental health stigma.  Her experiences have helped her to realize her passion for the health and mental health of the students, parents, staff, and communities she has served.

Through her desire to learn more and work toward bringing awareness to mental health, she was selected as one of the inaugural members of the School Counseling Advisory Team for the state of Tennessee. She also served on the AWARE Advisory committee in Lawrence County. She has completed several trainings in Youth Mental Health and First Aid, Restorative Practices, Jason Foundation, and Youth Protection.

Mary Anne holds a master’s degree in K-12 Administration and Supervision and an Education Specialist degree in curriculum and instruction, both from Middle Tennessee State University. Mary Anne enjoys spending time with her husband and five children and staying active for her overall health and mental health.

Diana Cisneros

Diana Cisneros, BSW

Case Manager

Diana Cisneros joined Mental Health America of the MidSouth in 2018. Diana is a Salvadoran-American case manager in the Multicultural Outreach Program. A Spanish native speaker, Diana, provides case management to unaccompanied minors and their sponsors. Diana assists non-English speaking clients to access mental health providers and services. Furthermore, Diana works closely with children and provides a significant amount of follow-up services to ensure their wellbeing and successful integration into their community. The services include: home studies, home visits, referral to local providers, crisis interventions, and advocacy.

Diana holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Middle Tennessee State University. Diana was crowned Miss Tennessee Latina 2015 and used her title as a platform to provide a voice for the Hispanic Community in Davidson County and surrounding areas. A dedicated volunteer, she was presented with a certificate of appreciation for community involvement and supporting of the NAZA afterschool programming in Nashville, Tennessee. Diana loves dedicating her time to her family and two furry rabbits.

Molly Colley

Molly Colley, MA

Northeast Regional Director

Prior to becoming part of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network team, Molly was an adult outpatient therapist with Frontier Health at Watauga Behavioral Health Services in Johnson City, Tennessee, and at Scott County Behavioral Services in Weber City, Virginia. As a therapist, Molly worked with individual clients as well as groups, including facilitating an intensive outpatient psychotherapy group for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Molly has also worked as an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University, teaching undergraduate courses for the Department of Counseling and Human Services.

Molly was also a family development specialist with Health Connect America, providing in-home therapy and services to children and their families in northeast Tennessee. While earning her master’s degree, Molly was a graduate assistant with THRIVE, East Tennessee State University’s suicide and violence prevention outreach program, a part of the ETSU Counseling Center. There, she worked to provide suicide prevention education, resources and advocacy to the ETSU community.  

Molly is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). She holds a master of arts degree in counseling, as well as a bachelor of science degree in psychology, both from East Tennessee State University. During her undergraduate education, she completed research on topics such as interpersonal rejection and self-control.

Her compassion, drive for human connection, and her own loss of family and friends by suicide have fueled her passion for the mental health field.

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Grace Eakin, BS

Director of Statewide Initiatives and Development

Grace Eakin was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. As she wanted to stay close to home for college, she attended The University of Tennessee and in 2016, graduated with both a major in psychology and political science. Although she loved her core curriculum in undergraduate, she was ready to take a new path when entering the workforce, and this has led her to live and work in different cities across Tennessee.

Starting her career in Knoxville, she worked for a video production company for a little less than a year, gaining experience in marketing, video advertising and social media marketing. Ready to make a move from home, she traveled to the westernmost part of the state to Memphis. There, she worked as a graphic designer and then was promoted to a marketing manager for an international wholesale furniture company. While she gained a marketing and communications skill set in Memphis, she was ready to return a little closer to home, and what better place to be than in Nashville.

After having many different positions in differing industries, it seemed right that when she came to Nashville she would try and find a place of work that both utilized her majors and her desire to give back to her fellow Tennesseans. Grace is passionate about destigmatizing the conversation about mental health; and, she is thrilled to work with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network team to better serve her community by promoting mental health through education and service. She serves as the director of statewide initiatives and development.

Rachel Gearinger

Rachel Gearinger, MPH

Southeast Tennessee Regional Director

Having moved to the Chattanooga area from Ohio in 2018, Rachel’s most recent position involved coordinating community-based support services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Additionally, Rachel has served in many capacities with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), advocating for individuals with mental illnesses and their families and promoting awareness and early intervention. During her time at NAMI Ohio, she led the organization’s statewide telephone helpline, spearheaded housing initiatives, and developed communication materials. She collaborated with state government and other stakeholders to improve the quality of care to individuals with serious mental illnesses who live in long-term group housing and increase access to housing.

She has a diverse background in mental health, communications and research. Prior to working in the mental health field, she worked as a freelance writer and as a scientific researcher, studying the effects of stress on the immune system, heart failure and muscular dystrophy.

She holds a master’s degree in public health from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and writing from DePauw University. She enjoys spending time on her farm with her many rescued animals and volunteers at her local animal shelter.

Tosha Gurley

Tosha Gurley, BS

West Tennessee Regional Director

Before joining Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, Tosha was the independent support coordinator program supervisor at the Tennessee Community Services Agency (TNCSA), a public agency created by the General Assembly of Tennessee with a broad mission of serving Tennesseans in need. Tosha’s responsibilities included managing independent support plans for people served by HCBS Medicaid Waivers and ensuring compliance with Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services. She also developed and monitored a program delivery system to help maintain TNCSA’s 4 Star Agency rating.

Prior to her work with TNCSA, Tosha was a family advocate for the Exchange Club Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Tosha’s work included preparing children testifying in abuse cases for court proceedings, and she also facilitated parenting education and child sexual abuse prevention courses.

Tosha holds a bachelor’s in human services from Bethel University, where she received the Human Services Honor Award and completed a field placement with Volunteer Home Care Medical Social Work.

Amber Hampton

Amber Hampton, LMSW

Program Manager

Program Manager, Amber Hampton, graduated summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in global studies from the honors college at Middle Tennessee State University. During her time in college, she spent her summers in El Salvador working with children in high-risk areas for gang violence. While planning to move to El Salvador full-time, she began building friendships with those experiencing homelessness in her community. It was here that she began to meet and work with survivors of trafficking. She noticed the work to be done in her own community and began working directly on the ground level with those who had experienced trauma. 

She worked as the missions and community service coordinator for a non-denominational church in Murfreesboro, where she built partnerships with local nonprofits, built volunteer teams, developed training materials, and led trips to Central and South America. Upon finishing her master’s degree, she transitioned into crisis counseling for youth and worked as a medical social worker for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

She graduated in 2015 from The University of Tennessee College of Social Work with her master’s degree in evidence based interpersonal practice and a graduate certificate in the treatment of trauma. She is certified in EMDR and TF-CBT. She currently co-leads Murfreesboro Cold Patrol, a community organization dedicated to working directly to find solutions and build relationships with those experiencing homelessness. 

In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling to visit her friends across the globe, and hanging out in the woods and under bridges with her street family.

Courtney Hatfield

Courtney Hatfield, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Courtney Hatfield comes to Mental Health America of the MidSouth with a diverse background that ranges from auditing for a public accounting firm to serving as the director of finance for one of Nashville’s leading transportation companies. Courtney’s attention to detail keeps MHA of the MidSouth on budget and hitting goals. Her greatest accounting strengths include refining internal controls and streamlining processes to improve efficiency and accuracy related to financial reporting. Courtney has a bachelor’s in accounting and human resources from Lindsey Wilson College, and she has a master of accountancy from Lipscomb University. Courtney serves on the statewide career accounting education committee and the Nashville Chapter young CPAs committee for the Tennessee Society of CPAs. She is a graduate of the Williamson County Young Leaders Council and now serves on the board of GraceWorks Ministries. Outside of the office, Courtney volunteers at the Williamson County Animal Center, coaches youth basketball with South Williamson Athletics, and enjoys running.

Justin Johnson

Justin Johnson, MSW

Memphis/Shelby County, Tennessee, Regional Director

Justin is from Millington, Tennessee. He served in the United States Marine Corps for five years with two combat deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraq Freedom. He also served as a police officer for five years as a patrolman. He brings a skill set from his law enforcement background of applied crisis intervention skills to deal with situations that he encountered in this profession that ranged from domestic violence to mental health issues. 

He is a graduate of the University of Memphis where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. For graduate school, his field placement was at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Hospital as a suicide prevention case manager intern. Justin has a professional work history which gives him the unique cultural insight and experience needed to effectively work within the mentioned communities and the general population. Justin has extensive experience helping the most at-risk populations with the highest rates of suicide.

While he was employed at Veterans Affairs, he was personally responsible for providing counseling to veterans who had been flagged for suicidal ideation. He was also responsible for conducting suicide prevention training to nursing homes and colleges throughout the Mid-South for Veterans Affairs.

Justin conducted a program evaluation of suicide prevention programs at Veterans Affairs for suicide prevention efforts. His program evaluation was recognized among his peers and selected to be the standard-setting example for the University of Memphis social work graduate classes of proper program evaluation. 

Justin is an avid runner and uses running to raise money each year for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to fight childhood cancer. He also is a Crossfitter. Justin is a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Post Commander of Collierville VFW Post 5066. 

Justin hopes to bring his dedication, education and practical skill set to the position of Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Regional Director for Memphis/Shelby County, Tennessee. 

Desiree Kelly

Desireé Kelly, DrPH

Public Health and Education Manager

Desireé Kelly is the Public Health and Education Manager at Mental Health America of the MidSouth.  Desireé provides workplace wellness education for Middle Tennessee employers and oversees MHA’s Erasing the Stigma program. Desiree’s approach to education for children and adults is to deliver presentations that are interactive, engaging and age-appropriate. These topics address concerns such as: Stress and Anxiety, Body Image and Self-Image, Bullying, Suicide Prevention, Risky Behaviors and Substance Abuse and other mental health and wellness-related topics. Desireé’s main objective is to educate people about mental health care and change the conversation about mental health stigmas in the state of Tennessee.

Desireé has a doctorate degree in public health with a specialization in health advocacy and leadership from Capella University. She specializes in public speaking, designing health resources, creating presentations and curricula for specific generational cohorts in diverse topics.  She earned her master of science in kinesiology and physical education from the University of Central Arkansas and her bachelor of science in exercise and sports science from the University of Memphis. Desireé is also trained in ACEs, ASIST and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Desireé is an adjunct professor at Columbia State College; she sits on many committees designed to advocate for children and adolescents in Tennessee. Desireé has spoken at various educational and professional conferences highlighting different public/mental health and wellness-related topics. Desireé is an active member of the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, since being initiated into the distinguished sorority in Spring 1999 at the University of Memphis. Desireé has worked with adolescents and young adults in various capacities such as volunteering, mentoring and teaching for more than twenty-five years. She discovered her love for public speaking and presentations in ninth grade when she presented a risky decision skit in front of an assembly of elementary students. That day, her love for prevention education was formed; she knew she had discovered her passion for her life, prevention.  One of Desireé’s favorite quotes is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” by Dr. Maya Angelou. Her goal is to help people seek the help they need through providing mental health resources that will provide them with the help they need to manage all seven dimensions of wellness, specifically emotional and mental health care, this is her Passion Project. 

Misty Leitsch

Misty Leitsch, BBA, BSW

Zero Suicide Director and Interim Director

Misty Leitsch oversees the statewide implementation of the Zero Suicide Initiative by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network in partnership with community mental health centers, emergency departments in small and rural hospitals, alcohol and drug treatment facilities, and select private business partners. Misty also serves as the Deputy Director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

Misty works on the Clarksville mayor’s challenge to prevent veteran suicides, the statewide veterans suicide prevention task force, several intra-state departmental initiatives, and the Montgomery, Houston, Humphreys, Robertson, and Stewart Counties task force. Misty is a certified trainer for QPR, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, safeTalk, Youth Mental Health First Aid, safety planning and CSSRS. Misty is also a Psychological Autopsy Investigator.

Before joining TSPN’s staff, she served for five years on the TSPN Advisory Council, having been appointed to this post by the Office of the Governor of Tennessee. As chair of TSPN’s Mid-Cumberland Region, Misty organized the region’s first Annual Memorial Walk and conducted numerous suicide prevention training sessions for crisis centers, behavioral health facilities, schools, businesses, and civic groups. Misty double-majored in social work and business administration while working on her bachelor’s degree at Belmont University in Nashville, graduating in 2007. Outside of work, Misty likes spending time with her family, being outdoors, and having food adventures.

Tom Starling

Tom Starling, EdD

Chief Executive Officer

Tom Starling, EdD, has served as the CEO of Mental Health America of the MidSouth since 2009. Tom holds degrees in psychology, theology, ethics, and educational administration. He has previously served as CEO of the Middle Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association, as CEO of United Way of Rutherford County, and as a university administrator and hospital chaplain for institutions in Texas and Tennessee.  Under his leadership, MHA of the MidSouth has been recognized as a Health Care Hero, Best in Business, finalist in Collaboration College, and finalist for the Marvin Runyon Award. Tom currently serves on numerous state and national boards and committees to promote mental health and wellness.

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Robin Turner, MLS

Development Associate

Robin has more than ten years of nonprofit experience that have focused on coordinating events, donor relations, and data management. Currently, she coordinates the agency’s fundraising activities including signature events, such as Jammin’ to Beat the Blues and the Jack C. Massey Leadership Award Dinner. Robin oversees all Mental Health America of the MidSouth social media. Having seen people close to her struggle with PTSD, dementia and depression, Robin values our mission to help the community get connected with mental health and wellness resources. Robin has a bachelor’s in history from Nazareth College and an MLS from SUNY Buffalo.

Sarah Walsh

Sarah Walsh, MPH

East Tennessee Regional Director

Sarah Walsh is originally from the Indianapolis area, coming to east Tennessee for her undergraduate studies at Milligan College. In 2016, she earned her B.S. in Biology with minors in Humanities and Missions. Sarah graduated in May 2019 with a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. At UTK, she concentrated in Community Health Education, minored in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and earned a Food Safety Certificate. Sarah found her passion of combining education, health, and diseases for under-served or vulnerable populations. 

Before coming to MHA, Sarah worked for the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS), University Housing, and the Upward Bound Math and Science Center. SWORPS allowed her to create a Community Health Assessment Template for future clients, facilitate qualitative and quantitative research methods, and analyze large data sets. The other previous work experiences granted Sarah the opportunity to serve individuals in high school, college, and beyond. Through this, she found her passion for students in high school and spends her time weekly mentoring a group of girls.

Lynn Wood

Lynn Wood

Aging Services Coordinator

Lynn Wood has spent the last 10 years working with senior citizens and their families who are dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Her interest in this disease and the effects it has on the whole family unit has become a passion for her. During her study on this topic she found that many families developed the need for counseling or substances to help with the sense of loss that this disease has. She also reflected on the many losses and challenges she has faced over the course of her life involving mental health. Approximately 2 years ago she became a Mental Health First Aid instructor. During that time, she has conducted several trainings involving Vanderbilt University Security, the nursing staff with the Department of Health for Nashville, and officers with Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Her goal is to continue to help break the stigma that mental health has and teach as many people as possible on how to recognize the many facets of mental health and how to seek help. Lynn is currently the aging services coordinator and is completing her dementia specialist certification.  She continues to work with families and make Caring for the Caregiver her main focus.