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1a Needs Analysis - Gathering Data


  • To define the setting’s mental health problems and needs on the basis of existing and newly collected information

What Needs to be Done

This activity has two tasks:

  • Gathering existing information on problems and needs
  • Collecting new information on problems and needs

The range and type of existing information available will vary according to the setting you are operating in. However, all settings will have information available that will be useful in identifying the mental health promotion needs of the target groups for the programme. For example, schools may have information available on pupil attendance and teacher’s reports; workplaces may have absenteeism and health and safety information while older people’s residences may have information on health status, number of visits and so on. All of these types of information may provide useful insights into mental health promotion needs.

It will also be necessary to collect new information which is more targeted to the setting and the kinds of mental health promotions needs that you expect to identify. In schools, for example, this may relate to bullying or peer support for children; in workplaces it may relate to stress at work or absence from work, while in older people’s residences, it may relate to loneliness or cognitive functioning.

A range of methods may be used to collect this information. They may involve using interviews, questionnaires, group based techniques or objective tests.

The procedures to be used for collecting this information will vary according to the setting that you are operating in – more detail on these procedures can be found in the setting specific toolkit.

Who is Involved? 

  • The Project Team
  • The Target Group

 1b Needs Analysis – Analysing Data


  • To analyse the data gathered from existing sources in order to generate an initial list of problems and needs.
  • To analyse the survey data and identify the main problems and needs of the target group.
  • To generate a report on the outcomes of the questionnaire analysis and report this to the key stakeholders in the setting

What Needs to be Done

Depending on the type, quality and quantity of data, appropriate data analysis procedures must be applied. In most cases, data analysis may be undertaken by the project team or by the project team under the supervision of an expert. However, in cases where working with confidential data is a significant concern, it may be necessary to consider appointing someone outside the setting like an external expert, or someone trusted within the setting such as a physician to perform the data analysis.

The focus of the data analysis activity is to have a problem and action orientation. Interpretation of the data in this phase will require the data to be broken down by the major demographic factors and the setting conditions. Taking the workplace as an example, information on the rate of absenteeism is in itself not meaningful in terms of needs identification. However, absenteeism rates in relation to causes, workforce demography or workplace location can provide useful information.

All of the information obtained in the needs analysis phase should be integrated during this activity.

The process of analysing data, while requiring some expertise, should be guided by the project team, and not left to an expert. In particular, it is essential that the project team pose a set of questions which are to be answered by the person undertaking the analysis. Examples of typical questions include:

  • What are the most important mental health problems in the setting?
  • Which groups within the setting report the poorest mental health?
  • What are the most important actions which could be taken to improve mental health?
  • What factors seem to influence mental health the most? 

Questions such as these (and also more detailed ones) should be presented to the person undertaking the analysis of the data so that the process of identifying the most important problems can be driven by the project team as representatives of the setting.  

A final issue which should be addressed during the analysis concerns confidentiality. While it goes without saying that information security procedures should be maintained, confidentiality can be breached when reporting on the data. This can arise if the groups identified in the analysis are too small. For example, a report which states that a group of five people in a specific area have reported particularly poor mental health, enabling the identification of individual persons. As a rule of thumb, it is desirable that no analysis should be performed on groups of less than twenty people.

It should be noted that there are other ethical issues apart from confidentiality which may apply, particularly in the schools and older people’s residences settings. For examples, there are issues related to duty of care, non-malfeasance and obtaining informed consent to take part in an MHP programme which need to be addressed. These settings specific concerns are addressed in more detail in the settings specific manuals for MHP.  

Who is Involved?

The Project Team is responsible for the analysis of the data and may engage an expert (internal or external) to assist them with this task.