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Meet the researcher: Dr Ioannis Angelakis, Associate Professor

Dr Ioannis Angelakis is Associate Professor in Psychology and coordinator of the Behaviour Therapy Service at the University of South Wales. He is a member of the Promoting Lifelong Health group.

What are you currently researching?

My research focusses primarily on understanding the aetiology and prevention of suicide and related behaviours in people with adverse childhood experiences, severe mental health issues, or both. I also am particularly interested in investigating the mechanisms underlying resilience to suicide acts in people with childhood trauma and/or mental health problems.

What attracted you to this area of research? 

Basic models of psychopathology in animals and human participants have demonstrated the deleterious role of punitive and/or related practices on both physical and mental well-being for over six decades now. However, such practices have not been abandoned and people are not aware of their long-term effects later on in life. For example, the rates of maltreatment experienced by the age of 18 years old were estimated to be around 12.5% and 18.6% in representative American and British samples. Unfortunately, and despite the strong evidence linking childhood maltreatment with lower neurological, emotional, and psychosocial functioning, an increase in the adverse events in childhood have been recorded. Moreover, the rates of self-harm, and suicide thoughts and behaviours are on the rise. This has inspired me to dedicate my research into the investigation of these relationships in an effort to understand and clarify the mechanisms at play, identify possible ways to reverse such detrimental outcomes, and help raise public and scientific awareness.

Dr Ioannis Angelakis

What have been the highlights of your research work so far? 

My research contributions have been recognised via appointments to the editorial boards of Psychological Assessment, BMC Psychiatry, and Journal of Psychopathology and Behavior Assessment. Furthermore, I have been asked to serve as ad hoc reviewer for a number of other psychology, psychiatry, or public health journals, including Psychological Medicine; Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; Journal of Affective Disorders; Assessment; Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology. I also have served as a grant reviewer for the Medical Research Foundation (MRC). 

One of my recent articles in JAMA Network Open, which examined the association between childhood maltreatment and suicide experiences in young people, garnered an invited commentary highlighting the complexities of this association, as well as the potential for this type of research to inform suicide prevention interventions (Burstein et al., 2020). Another article (Angelakis et al., 2019), which reported the link between adult suicide and childhood maltreatment, was featured in an article in the Guardian

What has been the most important paper you have published? 

So far, I believe that the most important papers I have published are those investigating the strong links between core forms of childhood maltreatment, and suicide ideation and attempts across different age groups (e.g., adolescents and adult populations) and various populations (e.g., community and clinical samples, and prisoners). 

I hope that these findings raise important public and scientific awareness of the long-term effects of these practices later on in life. I also hope that these results inspire the development of evidence-based interventions aiming at preventing childhood maltreatment as well as those addressing their effects on survivors of childhood trauma.

What early career research funding have you received? 

I received a University of South Wales Early Career Researcher Fellowship in 2016. The funding gave me a unique opportunity to dedicate more time into conceptualising and conducting empirical research. During my award, I was able to collect data, perform the analyses, and write up three different research papers examining the protective and risk factors for the relationship between obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicide experiences.  

What are your predictions for your field in the near future?

I believe that in the near future Psychology as a field will develop effective low-cost interventions for various mental health problems; reduce the rates of suicide experiences in adolescents and adult populations; convey useful ways for dealing with the effects of long Covid in Covid-19 survivors and increase actions on climate change.