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Campus Stories

Impacting Youth Suicide Prevention Using the Power of Data

When a young person dies by suicide, the loss devastates family and friends, teachers and teammates. The only hope is that the tragedy will spur action and prevent future deaths. Behind the scenes in Los Angeles County, there is a panel of experts from nonprofits and government agencies with a mission to do just that. They form the County Child & Adolescent Suicide Review Team (CASRT). Dr. Michael Pines, Clinical Supervisor, Office of Training and Placement, Los Angeles Campus, is one of the founders.

CASRT members study the cases of local youth who die by suicide, and the institutional response in great detail. It took years to develop metrics that would yield the most meaningful and useful data to prevent suicide deaths.

Enter seven TCSPP student researchers, led since May 2016 by Clinical Forensic Psychology Psy.D. student Ashley Fortier. Students attend the monthly meetings at the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner to observe the case discussions, code the information, and analyze the findings. On the basis of their findings, they reevaluate suicide prevention policies for school districts and collaborate with mental health agencies, medical professionals, child protective services, law enforcement, and school administrators to improve prevention practices, intervention, and postvention strategies. The findings and recommendations are published in the annual Los Angeles County Child Death Review Team Report, which is published by the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. Student researchers also present information at conferences for even wider impact.

“It is an honor to be a member of the CASRT team,” says Ashley, “and to make a difference through my research into such a tragic, but ultimately preventable, event such as youth suicide. Dr. {Loren} Hill and Dr. Pines are great mentors. I am grateful for this opportunity to educate others about suicidology and prevention efforts.”
Pictured: Ashley Fortier