Mental health needs assessments can prompt concerted action to improve wellbeing and life chances in local communities, says research published today by Centre for Mental Health.

Meeting the need: what makes a ‘good’ JSNA for mental health? explores how five local councils across England went about understanding the mental health needs of their communities and taking action to meet them more effectively.

The report was funded by Public Health England and produced in support of the National Mental Health, Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network. It finds that joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs) for mental health and dementia can help to direct investment, to improve services and to help local agencies work together more effectively. To have the biggest impact, they need a clear purpose, effective leadership and advocacy, and partnerships that continue after the JSNA is completed to ensure that they lead to action.

The report finds that voices of experience can be a major asset in mental health needs assessments, by understanding what helps and what hinders wellbeing in the local area. And the way needs assessments are presented can be critical to their success, ensuring that they tell a compelling story and are written in plain English.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Lead for the Mental Health Intelligence Network, said: “The profile of mental health has never been higher in our country. All the millions of people who have worked so hard to raise awareness and understanding should be proud: and none more than the people with lived experience who have spoken out about their own mental health.

The time has now come to support every community in our country to take action. Local areas need information to understand their population's needs, and develop and commission responsive plans that will deliver the best outcomes for people and their families.

Report author Andy Bell said: “The public health teams we met for this project have shown that assessing mental health needs can help to bring about change in a local area. We found that listening to the views of local people is crucial for a needs assessment to reflect the communities it speaks about. We found that clear and effective communication is vital to success. And we found that building partnerships across agencies is essential to ensure that a JSNA has a lasting impact.”

Read more about the report or download it here.