Leiden University professor has been awarded with Spinoza Prize!

| Leiden Convention Bureau

Professor of Stress-Related Psychopathology Bernet Elzinga has been awarded the Spinoza Prize for developing simple interventions to help parents avoid passing on stress and mental health issues to their children, and to assist young people dealing with the long-term effects of emotional neglect or chronic criticism from parents. In an interview with Tom Janssen, Bernet Elzinga expressed that her research on the crucial role parents play in passing on stress and mental health conditions to the next generation was interdisciplinary. She emphasized that this work was a collaborative effort involving a large group of researchers from various backgrounds, such as neuroscience, pedagogy, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, and child and adolescent psychologists working in clinical practice. She also noted that this topic often does not receive enough attention, making the prize more meaningful in terms of recognition for this important area.

Research Insights and Parental Support

The research significantly enhances the treatment of children with depression by informing interventions that stress the importance of reducing criticism and fostering positive contact. This approach highlights the sensitivity of young individuals with depression and emphasizes that while parents are not the cause of their child’s condition, they can play a crucial role in promoting their well-being. To support parents who are struggling, the 'Samen Sterk' (Strong Together) course has been developed. Due to the high demand for young people’s care and support services, children with mental health issues often remain at home, leaving parents uncertain about how to help. The 'Samen Sterk' book, based on the course, has been created to address this need. Additionally, an app utilizing artificial intelligence has been developed, allowing parents to ask specific questions related to the book and receive personalized responses within minutes. Although further research will be conducted to evaluate its usefulness, initial feedback from parents has been very positive.

Spinoza Prize

The Spinoza Prize is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in the Netherlands, often referred to as the "Dutch Nobel Prize." Established by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), this annual award recognizes outstanding researchers who have made significant contributions to their fields. The prize not only honors exceptional scholarly achievements but also provides substantial financial support, enabling recipients to further their research and develop new initiatives. Winners of the Spinoza Prize are selected based on the excellence and impact of their work, as well as their ability to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists. The award reflects the legacy of Baruch Spinoza, the renowned 17th-century Dutch philosopher, and underscores the Netherlands' commitment to advancing knowledge and innovation.

The Prize will help fund further research

Berent Elzinga told Tom Janssen during the interview that the Spinoza Prize funds will be used to further develop the interventions. With parents and young people with depression who participate in the Samen Sterk course, she now records daily how they feel, their worries, and their interactions with their child. This approach provides new insights into parent-child interactions and helps parents reflect on their responses to their children. She is keen to expand this approach to parents of adolescents with other mental health issues such as anxiety, eating disorders, or excessive alcohol or drug use. These parents have numerous questions and face significant challenges, such as managing drug or alcohol problems or dealing with extreme irritability. She aims to develop effective methods to offer personalized advice. To achieve this, she plans to collect data from everyday life. The Spinoza Prize will enable her to create simple interventions that benefit both children and their parents.