National Survivor User Network (NSUN) activity analysis

NSUN is an independent mental health organisation which connects individuals with lived experience of mental health, trauma or distress and user-led groups across England.

The request

NSUN required an analysis of the geographical distribution of their members so that they could understand where mental health user-led organising and campaigning is taking place across England and identify areas where there is limited activity or provision. NSUN also carry out an annual survey to gather views on the interests of members. They wanted input on improving the design of the questionnaire and increasing the number of respondents, as well as an analysis of trends in members’ interests over the last 10 years.
The approach

All meetings between the statistician Margaret May and NSUN had to take place by zoom due to COVID. The membership database was cleaned and postcodes were used to match to ONS population estimates at regional and local levels to give estimates of membership density.
NSUN activity was compared with publicly available data relating to mental health needs and services. Margaret estimated correlations of the density of NSUN membership with indicators from the Mental Health Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (MH-JSNA), such as prevalence of depression, long-term mental illness, deprivation, and housing affordability.
Past members’ surveys were analysed for representativeness of the general membership. Trends in membership demographics and interests were tracked over 10 years and presented graphically.
The result

Analysis of the database showed that membership was uneven across the English regions with highest coverage in London. NSUN density of membership was positively correlated with several measures from the MH-JSNA including the prevalence of common mental health disorders, depression and anxiety. In separate analyses for London boroughs, NSUN density of membership was correlated with deprivation, and specifically measures of unemployment, crime, and homelessness. Data from NSUN members’ surveys over the last 10 years suggested that NSUN is increasingly being influential via linking members with local groups rather than through directly supporting members.

Respondents to NSUN’s surveys were not representative of the membership at large and several improvements were suggested to engage a broader membership and increase response rate.  Improved protocols for the survey were implemented for the 2020 questionnaire. These included separate pathways for individual members and groups to make questions more relevant, and drop-down menus to ensure uniform coding.

A report was written which has provided NSUN with better information on the coverage of their activities and how they fit the needs of their members. This report has fed into a strategic review of their operation and data from the analyses will be used in grant applications.

Impact and benefits
Akiko Hart, CEO of NSUN, commented:
"NSUN is currently in the process of reviewing membership engagement and its membership offer. The analysis which Professor Margaret May undertook for us as part of Statisticians for Society, the Royal Statistical Society's pro bono scheme, has been invaluable. It has given us insight into membership trends and how they might correlate with wider mental health data, but also on the type of data we hold, and how to collect it and code it in ways which might be useful. It has made us look more critically at how we survey our members and stakeholders, how we might increase response rates, and how we might track responses more coherently over time.
This work will be invaluable in helping us shape our new strategy, and also in helping us make the case for our work to funders."