The Data Gap in Mental Health: Our #MHForAll webinar
This week saw the relaunch of our #MHForAll webinar series, after a short pause over July and August. Originally intended as a way of sharing information around mental health and the Covid-19 pandemic, the series now explores a range of intersectional topics from around the field of mental health.
In this session we were joined by Pam Das (The Lancet), Tarun Dua (World Health Organisation), Cecilia Vaca Jones (Bernard van Leer Foundation), Liliana Carvajal (UNICEF), and Suraj Koirala (Transcultural Psychosocial Organization) to discuss the data gap in mental health.
It was clear from all of our speakers that closing the mental health data gap is crucial to stepping up progress for mental health globally, and that there is an urgent need to strengthen systems and capacity building around this.
Liliana Carvajal highlighted how data and research is a key part of UNICEF’s strategy for mental health solutions, allowing them to develop effective evidence-based interventions and determine how decisions are made at national levels. Cecilia Vaca Jones also explained the potential for data, such as that published in Countdown Global Mental Health 2030, to be used at a global level in identifying key gaps for decision makers and to change behaviour around mental health.
There is an evident need for data, but there remains a clear lack of it across the sector. As Tarun Dua explained, some countries are not reporting at all, and of those that are, many still lack a full set of data available to share. This is in part due to investment in data systems.
On the current state of mental health data, the speakers reflected on how, despite the increased understanding around the importance of mental health data, the required systems are simply not there. Strengthening these systems will be crucial if we are to make real progress. Where tools are available, commitment is still generally needed from governments and global leaders.There is also a lack of decentralised data that reflects intra-country variations, which is critical for reflecting the true reality of populations’ mental health and for decisions to be taken on a local level.
Tools such as the WHO Mental Health Atlas and Countdown Global Mental Health 2030 aim to tackle this data gap. While the data used is collected from government sources, there is further potential and scope for collecting data from civil society organisations and people with lived experience of mental ill health. As Suraj Koirala highlighted, getting people at a local level to collect data, and ensuring it is of good quality, will help to establish a more accurate understanding of the reality across countries. An inter-stakeholder approach would allow each actor to bring a different perspective, and there is a clear role for the private sector and NGOs to play in this too.
Our speakers agreed that collaborating across sectors, strengthening systems and building capacity will be crucial to overcoming these challenges. A qualitative approach will also be important in order to take into account human rights frameworks, and a person centred approach is needed. Countdown Global Mental Health 2030, which was launched earlier this week, aims to do this. The first independent monitoring and accountability mechanism that uses a broad and integrated set of indicators to monitor progress for mental health, it has been designed to inform action to campaign, to advocate, to communicate and to change policy and practice.