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This phase is central to the MHP project, because it establishes the current health status within the setting and identifies areas which need to be improved. The output of this phase provides the basic information on which decisions about the MHP project will be based.  

  • Use of existing data
  • Use of expert opinion
  • Identifying recipient needs – varies according to setting
  • Analysing data
  • Developing a plan

 The Needs Analysis Phase can take quite a long time. To try to overcome the problems associated with activities which are spread over long periods (loss of interest etc.) two levels of needs assessment are proposed. The first level builds on the problem areas identified in the Preparations phase and redefines those using already existing data from the setting. This data combined with interviews with key personnel will provide an initial, high-level overview of whether health related problems exist and also an initial description of what types of health problem these are.

The findings from this first level analysis will provide a focus for the second level analysis which aims to examine in detail the needs and problems experienced by people within the setting using specific tools such as a questionnaire or group meetings. Other advantages of using two levels of analysis is that after the first level of analysis, it is possible to undertake some health actions. Ultimately the aim is to undertake action and problem solving oriented assessment.

The success of this phase depends on a range of issues. Most important of these is the participation of individuals in the data gathering exercise. To ensure people participate, they need to be well briefed about the project and its activities, why it is being undertaken and how they stand to benefit from it. The exact nature of participation will depend on the setting.

Open communication ensures that potential difficulties and conflicts are avoided. Issues such as confidentiality, anonymity and security need also to be addressed with the appropriate stakeholders for two main reasons. Firstly, it guarantees that the information gathered from participants is reliable. Secondly, because personal information from medical services or human resources records may be used, it is essential to have appropriate procedures in place.

Finally, the needs identification activities are likely to generate quite a lot of expectations within the settings. People may be aware that something related to health is taking place in their surroundings, and often rumours will spread as regards the motives for introducing such a project. For this reason it is essential that information, feedback, communication actions and transparency of activities are considered.


  1. To gather information on mental health needs and problems using existing data and/or survey data
  2. To analyse data related to a setting’s health in order to identify health-related problems and needs
  3. To obtain a comprehensive mental health profile. This profile will detail all relevant factors relating to the health and will serve as the basis for prioritising problems and needs.
  4. To report needs to the project team and other stakeholders in a clear and simple manner.

Types of Tools Relevant for this Phase

The kinds of tools which are relevant during this phase include:

  • Needs analysis/organisation survey type tools
  • Instruments that allow the setting of targets and/or the establishment of baseline
  • Identification of individuals at risk
  • Tools to evaluate what functions well in the setting and what could be improved
  • Framework documents that allow a systematic approach to Mental Health Promotion
  • ‘How to’ Manuals will generally be classified here
  • Tools to assist in project planning

What Needs to be Done and How to Do It

Four main activities take place during the Needs Analysis Phase which are reflected below.  These activities need to take place in sequence – priority and target setting depends on knowledge of needs and project planning needs knowledge of the targets for the MHP programme.