ESRC is pleased to announce the appointment of Louise Arseneault - Professor of Developmental Psychology at King's College London - to the new role of Mental Health Leadership Fellow.

Throughout the three year fellowship, Professor Arseneault will play a vital role in championing the role of the social sciences in mental health research. She will provide intellectual leadership and strategic advice on how social science research can best address the challenges that mental health poses for our society, communities and individuals.

It is estimated that 23 per cent of the UK population is affected by mental health problems at some point each year and the economic and social cost of mental illness in England is estimated at £105 billion. Social science research can help in many ways. It can provide evidence for what kinds of therapeutic or social interventions work, help us better understand the effects of age, gender, ethnicity and class on mental health and can ensure that initiatives and policies aimed at improving mental health are firmly evidence based.

Professor Louise Arseneault will bring her unique expertise and insight to the role. Her work at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, focuses on topics such as violence victimisation, mental disorders and antisocial behaviours and their development. Previously Professor Arseneault's research has shown that children who are bullied continue to feel the negative effects of bullying 40 years later, are at increased risk of depression and anxiety as adults, and are more likely to report a lower quality of life at age 50.

Professor Jane Elliott, ESRC Chief Executive, says: "With one in four people expected to develop a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, and suicide now the leading cause of death for men under 50, the ESRC is taking a leading role on how to tackle this complex issue.

"I warmly welcome the appointment of Professor Louise Arseneault as the ESRC's new Mental Health Leadership Fellow."

Professor Louise Arseneault from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, said: "This new role is an extremely exciting opportunity to influence mental health research in the UK. I look forward to working with the ESRC to strengthen their portfolio of mental health research. I will endeavour to listen to people’s concerns with regards to mental health and to learn what researchers, policy makers, and mental health professionals are doing to address those concerns. This role has the potential of making a real difference!"

In addition to the leadership element of her role, Professor Arseneault will also be investigating the impact of social relationships, in a contemporary Britain, on mental health and wellbeing.

The project specifically focuses on issues shaped by new technologies and social media including cyber harassment and bullying as well as social isolation and loneliness across the lifespan. It is anticipated that this project will identify potentially malleable targets for changing and improving the course of mental health throughout the lifespan, helping to promote mental health and build resilience.