Team Member Spotlight Series: Meet Joan Asarnow, PhD

February 24, 2020

Dr. Joan Asarnow, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Department of Psychiatry, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

Research Focus

Joan Asarnow’s research is designed to save lives, with her attention directed towards treatment research for suicide and self-harm in youth. She focuses on young people because suicide and self-harm among this age group is one of the most reliable predictors of premature death in children and young adults. Treatment research is ongoing, and there is still work being done to find the most effective treatment for these issues. She and her colleagues are working on a Zero Suicide Project, an aspiration goal based initiative that works to organize the health systems to increase treatment and identify at risk individuals in a non-stigmatizing way, all to decrease suicide rates. Joan has also worked to set up a center with the goal of improving treatment across the nation for young people who have experienced trauma and are self-harming or suicidal. Her research is very collaborative, and she hope that these large efforts will make an immense impact on suicide and self-harm rates across the country.

DGC Connection

Depression in a very common risk factor for suicidality, and approximately 80% of people who present with suicidality also have depression. Joan’s research connects with the Depression Grand Challenge as her breakthrough treatment options are helping us learn more about potential approaches to treating individuals with depression and other mental health diagnoses. Her research can help with the risk assessment and management of depression when suicidal or self-harming thoughts are present.


When Joan is not working, she enjoys traveling, swimming and spending quality time with her friends and family. 

“Technology and advanced interventions are the way of the future; they have their challenges, but hold so much promise.”

Learn more about the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge Team Member Spotlight Series.