UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science


Researcher from the MRC LHA at UCL win impact award for mental health research

19 November 2020

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Dr Praveetha Patalay, a researcher at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL and her colleague Professor Emla Fitzsimons from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, have been awarded the 2020 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize for their research on children and young people’s mental health.

They were winners of the ‘Panel Choice’ award, which recognises finalists whose work shows great promise. Their Millennium Cohort Study research has highlighted the mental health challenges faced by young people in the UK, helping to enhance the understanding of child and adolescent mental health among policymakers and practitioners.

Their 2016 study, which outlined the differences between mental ill-health and mental wellbeing, underscored the fact that good mental wellbeing and absence of mental illness do not necessarily go hand in hand. This was important for Public Health England (PHE) in developing methods for measuring child and adolescent mental health, and resulted in mental wellbeing also being considered in interventions and public policy. Their subsequent 2017 research, which revealed high rates of depressive symptoms among 14-year-olds, has informed conversations about future health policy in relevant government departments including PHE, the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care.

Professor Fitzsimons said: “It’s a tremendous honour to receive this award from the Economic and Social Research Council. Measuring and understanding young people’s mental health and wellbeing has never been more critical, and we’re committed to continuing this important work to help support young people and their families, by bringing robust evidence to the attention of policymakers.”

Dr Patalay added: “Young people’s mental health has been long ignored, even though there are far-reaching implications for individuals and society. A lot more needs to be done to ensure that children and adolescents are better supported and that future generations do not suffer similarly high levels of mental health difficulties.”

The awards, which were judged by a panel of academics, and engagement and knowledge exchange experts, are an opportunity to celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research.

Professor Alice Sullivan was also a finalist in the category of ‘outstanding societal impact’ for her research on the benefits of reading for pleasure for children’s English and maths skills.

Professor Fitzsimons and Dr Patalay have been awarded £2,500 to spend on further knowledge exchange, public engagement or other communications activities, and have had a film professionally made about their work and its impact.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s Executive Chair, said: “The winners and finalists in this year’s ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize competition have very clearly demonstrated the impact of their work including its relevance and importance to improving lives. All of these outstanding researchers are already contributing to policy debates in their specialist areas and their influence will likely be felt for many years to come.”

Further information

Find out more about the ESRC Celebrating Impact Awards.