3. Are mental health statistics meeting user needs?

Listening to user views is a key component of our research – a key question we look to answer is, are statistics meeting user needs? To answer this, we have researched the current statistics and spoken with a broad range of key stakeholders and users of Northern Ireland mental health statistics.

We found that existing mental health statistics do not meet current user needs and there a number of barriers prohibiting good statistics in this area. Three overarching themes emerged from our user research.

  • The scarcity of robust mental health data in Northern Ireland has led to significant data gaps.
  • The lack of regional standardisation and a fragmented technology infrastructure has led to poor data quality, with limited consistency or comparability across the region.
  • Users find it difficult to locate official statistics across a dispersed landscape. Data accessibility could be improved.

The statistics users we spoke to have a strong vision of what mental health statistics should be delivering. While there is currently a large gap between this vision and what currently exists, statistics producers do share many of the concerns raised by users. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both resourcing and prioritisation, yet despite this, there is strong appetite to make improvements.

The Department of Health (NI) Mental Health Strategy (2021-2031) has a positive and ambitious vision for the future of mental health services in Northern Ireland. We heard that this is an important and welcomed strategy. We want to highlight and support this positive direction of travel and have made recommendations for action on each of the three themes we have identified: Data Gaps, Data Quality and Data Accessibility.

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