Sarah’s earlier academic work combined sociology with GIS and spatial analysis to investigate the co-optation of black churches by tourism and real estate interests in Harlem, NYC, as well as the struggles of Hispanic-owned small businesses in gentrifying Brooklyn, NYC neighborhoods.

Her ethnographic dissertation research incorporates concepts from the social sciences, human geography, public health and critical suicidology to examine the relationship between understandings of suicide and place in an Intermountain West community struggling with a legacy of high suicide mortality and a recent youth suicide cluster.

Sarah previously worked in non-profit research and operations management with the Population Council in New York and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.


M.S., Applied Social Research, Hunter College, City University of New York
Certificate in Geographic Information Science, Hunter College, City University of New York
B.A., Russian and Spanish, Vassar College

Conference presentations

Vulnerable Station: Perceptions of Suicide in America’s Last Best Place. 7th Suicide & Self-harm Early & Mid-Career Researchers’ Forum, University of Glasgow, June 2023

Vulnerable Places: Perception of Suicide Riskscapes in the US Intermountain West. Suicide Cultures Conference, University of Edinburgh, June 2023


Diefendorf, S., S. Van Norden, S. Abrutyn and A. Mueller. 2022. Understanding Suicide Bereavement, Contagion and the Importance of Thoughtful Postvention in Schools. In John P. Ackerman and Lisa M. Horowitz, editors, Youth Suicide Prevention and Intervention: Best Practices and Policy Implications. SpringerBriefs in Psychology. Springer Cham.

Benediktsson, M. O., Lamberta, B. & Van Norden, S. 2015. The Endangered Enclave:  Hispanic-Owned Business Displacement in Brooklyn, 2002-2012.