News and Views
UCC appoints Ireland’s first Professor of Public Mental Health
Chief Scientist at the National Suicide Research Foundation and World Health Organization Expert Advisor appointed to new UCC position.
Demand for public mental health and suicide prevention has been greater than ever due to Covid-19 pandemic, expert says.
University College Cork (UCC) has announced the appointment of Ireland’s first Professor of Public Mental Health, with Ella Arensman taking up the role with immediate effect.
Prof Arensman, who will continue in her current role as Chief Scientist at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), will lead important and groundbreaking research on suicide and self-harm within UCC’s School of Public Health.
Having spent over three decades working in the field of suicide prevention research and public mental health, Prof Arensman said demand for research-based public mental health policy has never been greater, in light of the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a great honour to have been selected for the first professorial appointment in Public Mental Health in Ireland and it is very encouraging to see the endorsement of public mental health and suicide prevention research by UCC and the College of Medicine and Health,” Prof Arensman said.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the attention for public mental health and suicide prevention has been greater than ever. My colleagues and I in the National Suicide Research Foundation and School of Public Health have seen a significant increase in requests for policy briefings and research collaborations over the past year," she said.
"For example, the requests for real-time suicide and self-harm data to inform mental health promotion and suicide prevention programmes during COVID-19 have increased over the past year. Requests for mental health expertise in interdisciplinary research consortia focusing on intervention and prevention measures for infectious diseases and other public health emergencies have also increased. Therefore, this position is timely and will contribute to strengthen suicide prevention research and public mental health in the NSRF, School of Public Health, UCC, and at national and international level,” she said.
Professor Ivan Perry, Dean of the School of Public Health, welcomed the appointment;
"Professor Ella Arensman is a global leader in public mental health who has made an enormous contribution to work on the causes and prevention of self-harm and suicide in Ireland and internationally. She has an exciting vision for capacity development and research in Public Mental Health and my colleagues and I at the School of Public Health look forward to working with her to realise this vision," he said.
Prof Arensman has been working over 33 years in suicide prevention research and public mental health. In her position as Research Professor with the School of Public Health and Chief Scientist with the NSRF at UCC, she has established an extensive multidisciplinary research programme in suicide prevention and mental health research, based on a track record of successful funding awards from the Health Research Board (HRB), EU, HSE and other funding bodies. This has led to more than 200 publications. In addition, she has supervised 27 PhD theses.
She has fulfilled multiple leadership roles, including President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (2013-2017), and is Vice President of the European Alliance Against Depression, and is also a Steering Group member of the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration.
Prof Arensman is an Expert Advisor for the World Health Organization and was involved in establishing the NSRF’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Surveillance and Research in Suicide Prevention. She is also Visiting Professor with the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
In these roles, she has initiated numerous national and international interdisciplinary research consortia addressing real-time suicide/self-harm surveillance, intervention and prevention programmes for suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and excess mortality among people with mental health conditions.
In 2015, she was the recipient of the HRB Research Leaders Award, which is the highest career fellowship available from the HRB which funded the five-year research programme: ‘Individual and Area Level Determinants of Self-Harm and Suicide in Ireland: Enhancing Prediction, Risk Assessment and Management of Self-Harm by Health Services’.
In 2019 she, together with Dr Birgit Greiner, led the successful EU Horizon 2020 grant application: Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings (MENTUPP), representing an interdisciplinary consortium involving 17 partners in 13 European countries and Australia.