A licensed psychologist, Dr. Rotheram has always incorporated strategies for improving mental health and healthy family relationships into her research and interventions. Early in her career, Dr. Rotheram developed two landmark interventions targeted towards helping youth at risk of suicide or who had previously attempted suicide. Although her current research no longer focuses on suicide, mental health is still an important part of each study. Whether the focus of the program is on HIV, obesity, or social skills, a positive mental attitude has an enormous effect on the ultimate success of the individual. In addition, Dr. Rotheram incorporates measures of depression into many of her studies to better examine and ultimately understand how depression interacts with parenthood, with family relationships, and illnesses such as AIDS.
Troubled by the fact that most youth-suicide screening programs in the United States were generally failing, in the late 1980s Dr. Rotheram designed a strategy that asked shelter personnel to find in behavioral characteristics of homeless youth that a suicidal person would not have—in essence she proposed that they screen for safety to elucidate the real danger. The results focused suicide prevention resources on those in imminent danger. The CDC now uses Imminent Danger as a model program. Imminent Danger has been shown to have directly led to a reduction in suicide attempts in shelters in New York City. In addition, the therapy program developed as part of the intervention has been extended and replicated by Dr. Joan Asarnow at UCLA.
Emergency Room Intervention
The Emergency Room Intervention for adolescent suicide attempters was designed to help ER professionals increase the rate at which youth and their families complied with the recommended psychiatric follow-up after a suicide attempt. Implemented at Columbia Presbyterian medical Center in New York City, the intervention was able to decrease rates of depression by the suicide attempters and was most beneficial to those who were suffering the most. The study was validated by SAMSHA, and now manuals are available for free to all medical providers working in emergency departments.