THE country’s first professor of public mental health has been appointed at University College Cork’s (UCC) School of Public Health.
Ella Arensman, who has spent over three decades working in the field of suicide prevention research and public mental health, said it is an honour to take up the role.
Speaking upon her appointment, Prof Arensman highlighted that, in light of the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for research-based public mental health policy has never been greater.
“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,” she 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 [NSRF] and School of Public Health have seen a significant increase in requests for policy briefings and research collaborations over the past year.
“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.”
Prof Arensman will continue in her role as chief scientist at the NSRF, and lead research on suicide and self-harm within UCC’s School of Public Health.
The dean of the School of Public Health, Ivan Perry, said Prof Arensman’s 33 years in suicide prevention research and public mental health made her a global leader in mental health, including her “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,” said Prof Perry.
Prof Arensman has also fulfilled multiple leadership roles, including president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention which she held from 2013 to 2017.
She is also vice-president of the European Alliance Against Depression, and a member of the steering group of the International Covid-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration.
She 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.