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College Fellow Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen conducted a study into adolescent depression, which has been widely reported on.

College Fellow Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen conducted a study into depression, which has been widely reported. Her study suggests that recalling happy experiences can reduce adolescent depression, and build resilience to mental illness. The research has been featured in several publications, including the Guardian, The Conversation and the Business Times.

Anne-Laura’s research, led by her MPhil student Adrian Askelund, focussed on depression in young people, and how childhood experience affects it. Mental illness related to childhood adversity, including depression, is more persistent and severe; since up to half of Western children face some kind of adversity, Anne-Laura’s work is crucial in managing its impact. The study identifies “resilience factors” that can help protect young people from depression: notably, recalling happy childhood memories. This can reduce stress and boost a person’s self-image, improving resilience to depression over time. In the face of adversity, the research shows, focusing on positive experiences could be a critical antidote to mental illness.

As well as a Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, Anne-Laura is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, and a Senior Research Associate at the Cambridge Department of Psychiatry. She co-directs the Risk and Resilience Group, and conducted the study in this role. The wide reception and reporting on the study follows an Emerging Leaders Prize, which Anne-Laura won in October from the Medical Research Foundation; both reflect the value of her work, with its focus on risk and resilience in adolescent mental health.

Anne-Laura said:

“Childhood adversity forms a strong risk for adolescent mental health disorders. I hope that our findings help improve prevention and intervention strategies, and ultimately improve mental wellbeing for young people with a history of adversity.”

College President Professor Dame Madeleine Atkins said:

“Many congratulations to Anne-Laura for conducting this research. Her work is both exciting and essential, and I look forward to future developments. Anne-Laura is an outstanding example of our Fellows, making a positive impact in the field of mental health.”

Read the study here, or read about it via the Guardian, Medical Xpress, Neuroscience News, Business Times, Psychology Today or The Conversation.