Athena Kheibari

Athena Kheibari

Assistant Professor

 Expert in suicide and stigma

Athena Kheibari


Athena Kheibari joined the Wayne State University School of Social Work faculty in Fall 2019 as an assistant professor. She received her PhD in social work from the University of Kentucky (2019), her MA in social psychology from Ball State University (2014), and her BA in psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn (2012). Kheibari has diverse experiences in social work practice and research. She has over three years of direct practice experience as a capital mitigation specialist working with capital defendants and public defenders to advocate for a sentence less than death in capital murder cases. She also has a record of working in collaborative teams to conduct and publish quantitative and qualitative research on a range of topics – suicide attitudes, substance use among incarcerated women, mitigating evidence in criminal cases, health disparities, among others. Her dissertation, “Suicide Attitudes and Terror Management Theory”, combined experimental and survey research methods to test the mortality salience hypothesis on reactions to suicide and explore the psychological underpinnings of stigma toward persons who attempt or die by suicide.

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae

Degrees and Certifications

  • Ph.D. Social Work, University of Kentucky
  • M.A. Social Psychology, Ball State University
  • B.A. Psychology, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Teaching Interests

  • Suicide
  • Social Work Ethics
  • Forensic Social Work
  • Research Methods

Areas of Expertise


  • Predictors of suicide and suicide attitudes
  • Suicide loss and attempt survivors
  • Stigma and perceived stigma
  • Terror Management Theory


  • Experimental methods
  • Secondary data analyses
  • Survey research
  • Quantitative and qualitative data analysis

Research Interests

  • Social determinants of suicidal behavior, including cultural factors
  • Health disparities and socially constructed barriers resulting from suicide and overdose exposure, particularly among minority populations
  • Attitudes toward substance use and opioid overdose
  • The role of death anxiety in suicide and stigma from a terror management theory perspective

Grand Challenges Project

Promoting justice by addressing social stigma

Being marked as an outcast or failure, as many of those affected by suicide and substance use are, in a society that values insiders and achievers can be detrimental to a person’s well-being and sense of personal significance in the world. That is why, in line with the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare Grand Challenge of promoting justice by addressing social stigma, my primary goal as a social work scholar and researcher is to advocate for the holistic wellbeing of individuals who are affected by suicide and substance use.

Courses taught by Athena Kheibari

Fall Term 2024 (future)

Winter Term 2024

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Fall Term 2022

Winter Term 2022

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