The Importance of Mental Health Research and Evaluation

From the moment our eyes open in the morning until we go to sleep, our brains are bombarded with information. When we read news articles and listen to podcasts, our brain absorbs information about the world around us, the majority of which is based onmental health research findings and statistics.

Why is data so widely used? Figures and research results may have an emotional impact on us, add authority to a piece, and keep us anchored in reality. The importance of scientific findings, however, extends well beyond just communicating knowledge to the general population. Promoting mental health and reducing the burden of mental illness in varied populations requires research and evaluation studies that assess the effectiveness of a program.

Mental health research explores biopsychosocial factors, or how biological, psychological, and social functioning interact, in order to find patterns and social determinants of population health. These figures have a significant impact on the current state of mental health in the United States and throughout the world. The conclusions of this study have implications for public health, healthcare, and education. Mental health research and evaluation, for example, may have an impact on public health policy by assisting public health professionals in developing ways to improve population mental health.

The most effective strategies to assist mental health across diverse demographics are shown through research. Every community views mental health differently, from how it is defined to how it is presented. As a result, mental health research and evaluation assist us learn how to best enhance mental health across diverse racial and ethnic populations, as well as uncover mental health patterns. What does mental health look like in this community? Do persons suffering from mental illnesses encounter stigma? What is the overall attitude of the neighborhood’s persons with mental illnesses? These are the types of questions that mental health research may address.

Data allow us to establish if the current mental health resources and services meet those needs. Communities with the highest needs often have the fewest services and resources. Public health experts and other relevant stakeholders should prioritize policies and actions for areas with the most severe gaps, utilizing data from mental health research and evaluation to educate them about the gaps that currently exist.

Research is used to determine the effectiveness of public health policies and initiatives. Research and evaluation in the area of mental health help in the production of evidence supporting the success of healthcare policies, initiatives, and mental health promotion programs. Using this data, the value and return on investment of programs and policies that may support local, state, and federal funding must be shown. Participants in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, for example, have been proven to have greater mental health awareness, better confidence in their abilities to aid others in distress, and improvements in their own mental wellbeing. They have been critical in assisting companies and teachers in obtaining grant funds to implement MHFA in their communities.

Findings from mental health assessment studies and research are critical for assessing community needs and the effectiveness of public education campaigns such as MHFA. These studies give suggestions on how to improve mental health in diverse situations and ensure that financial resources are directed toward projects that have been proved to improve population mental health and reduce the burden of mental illness in the United States.

In 2021, Mental Health First Aid USA established MHFA Research Advisors to reaffirm its commitment to community impact and research on mental health and substance addiction. The organization advises and supports Mental Health First Aid USA on current studies and potential prospects pertaining to specific MHFA programs, such as Youth MHFA, Teen MHFA, and MHFA at Work. Through this advisory group and evaluation initiatives in general, Mental Health First Aid USA will #BeTheDifference for mental health research and assessment across communities in the US.

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