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DATA!  When I hear the word data I cringe – well I should say I used to cringe. 

But I have since come to realise that if done effectively and in a manner that appeals to a wide audience it becomes a powerful tool to enable goal setting and measure success and areas for improvement.

When we begin a new initiative, we are often so excited to get started and to see results, that we forget to take time to identify what is really going on.  Collecting data gives us the opportunity to identify what is ‘actually happening’.  We typically have a good sense of what this is, but effective data collection ensures that we understand the true needs of the community rather than our assumed ones.  We can often use this data collection to identify target groups within our local area and to assist us in setting initial goals and targets. 

Another important benefit of collecting data is that it is very powerful when sourcing essential funding and grants.  It can help provide the backbone for our initiatives and can help provide evidence needed when requesting funding for new initiatives.    

When collecting baseline data in preparation for action planning and goal setting I would recommend the following techniques:

  1. Use of a 3 Tier Diagram
  2. This is a great tool to use when first beginning to get a snapshot of current strategies and to help identify where the gaps exist
  3. Targeted Surveys
  4. Surveys provided in a variety of forms including online, paper and in person
  5. Ensure that surveys are provided to local schools.  This is an ideal way to collect data from the youth and also the teachers within the school.  Be sure to check the format that is suitable as many schools must stick to using tools such as Microsoft Forms etc.
  6. Specific questions from within the surveys posted on the team’s social media channels - This can be a great way to engage busy people who may not have time to complete a survey but can jot down a quick answer to one question on social media
  7. A simple question posted at an event or as people are leaving - There could even be an ipad where people input their answer to the question. Or instead you could have a question posted on a wall with answers and people simply add a sticky dot next to their preferred answer
  8. Use the initial data to set some initial goals and targets - This will allow the team to get some early wins and raise awareness out in the community or local area
  9. Provide an initiative for getting the surveys back on time - A little incentive goes a long way to motivating people

In my next blog post I will share examples of each of the data collection strategies that I have mentioned above, and will explain how to utilise each.

About 6 or 7 years ago, I began to realise the significant importance of mental health education in Schools.  As someone with lived experience with Depression and Anxiety in both myself and a family member close to me, I knew the importance of taking care of our own mental health.  Through my own journey I discovered:

I desperately wanted to see change happen at a School level, but our small staff was already overwhelmed with committees and curriculum commitments so the potential to ask them to form another action team was just not an option.  I had spent a lot of time researching school based approaches to mental health such as Kids Matters & Mind Matters in Australia and approached them about the idea of creating a team with community members with the School (myself) sitting in the Chair role.  This was met with keen enthusiasm and led me to setting up my first Community Mental Health Action Team (or as we like to call it “CoMHAT”).

Initially our team consisted of myself in the Chair role, our local doctor, our local Community Resource Centre manager and a local business representative/parent.  All of these individuals had a shared interest in mental health and were keen to see change happen both within the Education system but also out in the community. 

For me this was an opportunity to see beyond the school walls and make a real difference to our students.  So much of what was going on for the students and their mental health was happening outside of school.  This included their home life, sporting and social groups, social media and so forth. 

I set this team up to start looking at the big picture and to start seeing what we could do to improve awareness, education, support pathways and systems that were currently in place.  I had never in my Education career engaged with people in other sectors regarding improvements for our system but I soon came to realise that this was a game changer and could make all the difference to mental health approaches both within rural communities, but also in urban settings.

Over the next series of blog posts I will be writing about the steps I took to develop this team and how it has evolved.  I will explore:

  1. Why to adopt a cross sector or community approach
  2. Key areas to consider improving and developing
  3. Useful strategies for setting up an effective team
  4. Key roles for inclusion on the committee
  5. Collecting baseline data that is useful
  6. Creating early wins for the team
  7. How to Identify local protective and risk factors
  8. Creating opportunities for social connection and belonging
  9. Organising events to raise awareness and much needed funds
  10. Ideas for sourcing funding
  11. Considering the need for training and education
  12. Developing a Community Wellbeing Plan in consultation with the local region
  13. Creating a paid position to implement change
  14. The need for systemic change to approaches to mental health

If you would like to keep up to date with blog posts as they are released, please subscribe to my free newsletter with the link below and you will receive a detailed checklist with all of the steps involved in setting up a Community Mental Health Action Team and a BONUS video that outlines the benefits and development of a cross sector approach to mental health.


In my next blog post I will explore the key benefits of adopting a cross sector or community approach to mental health. 

If you have any questions about behavioural expectations or any other areas of interest, please send me an email at

or check out Community or Cross-Sector Approach to Mental Health | THINK Effective Consultancy

for more detailed information, resources and about how we can work together.

As always, please feel free to share my blog post with friends and colleagues and contact me with any questions.

Have a great day! 🙂

Renee Knapp

PS Sometimes a blog post just isn't enough and you want to talk to a real person to help you move forward.  I totally get it.  You can get in contact with me @   OR
CLICK HERE to get on a Zoom Chat
and we can chat about how I could work with you, your team or your school to make your vision or ideas come to life.

Accessing over $400 000 worth of grants to improve mental health.

Acquiring $200 000 worth of funding for salaries alone (rather than always having to rely on people volunteering their time)

Building brand new facilities, buying new equipment and bringing previously inaccessible education and events to a rural town.

This has all happened in a rural town in Western Australia since adopting my COMMUNITY APPROACH TO MENTAL HEALTH.

For those of you who may not know, I began my Community Mental Health in my own home town.  I spend a lot of time talking across Australia about the benefits of this model but it is this foundational journey that still brings me so much pride.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what a group of local people can achieve whether they are in a small or larger community when they work together to improve mental health and wellbeing.  

Below is some information about key achievements this Community Mental Health Action Team have achieved since I began working with them in 2016. 

case study
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