Student Spotlight on Lorna Chiu: Transforming Mental Health Services in the Public Health Sector

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Lorna Chiu
In 2015, about a year before Lorna Chiu started graduate school, she learned about the tragic suicide cluster at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Many of the suicides involved Asian-American teens. Lorna was distraught by the fact that this was happening to youth in the Bay Area where she grew up, and she wanted to help. It wasn’t until she began her doctoral work in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University (PAU) that she found a way to do so.
“I was interviewing for a position in Professor Joyce Chu’s Ethnic Minority Mental Health Research Lab when I learned I could work in suicide prevention within the Palo Alto community,” said Lorna. The laboratory work provided the ideal portal for Lorna to pursue her doctorate while serving the mental health needs of her community.  
Lorna’s laboratory position involves coordinating the operations for an innovative culturally responsive suicide prevention training program that PAU was developing in partnership with the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services. As part of this effort she worked with a team who was evaluating the cultural responsiveness of existing training programs. “I was very involved in laying the groundwork for the development of this training program,” said Lorna. The program, “Be Sensitive, Be Brave,” trains community members to be the eyes and ears in their community for individuals experiencing suicidal distress.  
Now in her fifth year, Lorna is shifting her focus to research. “I’ve learned that successful interventions must be informed by research,” said Lorna. Lorna was involved in a recent study that researched the method and location of suicides among ethnic minorities in Santa Clara County. “I plan to do more of this type of research,” said Lorna.
What does the future hold for Lorna? “I want to do something that helps improve the access and quality of mental health services in the community,” she says. “I have to be honest,” confessed Lorna, “when I first considered pursuing community mental health, my only concern was whether I’d be able to make a living.” Now, Lorna sees many pathways that would be rewarding both professionally and financially. Whether its teaching, policy work or a future position in public health service, Lorna feels that PAU is preparing her to be at the forefront of transforming the public mental health services of diverse underserved communities in California’s Bay Area.
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