Revealing hidden rural mental health service experiences using GIS and multiple NGOs’ operational data sets

Authors: Peter Kamstra*, Swinburne University, Social Innovation Research Institute, Jane Farmer, Swinburne University, Social Innovation Research Institute, Anthony McCosker, Swinburne University, Social Innovation Research Institute
Topics: Rural Geography, Applied Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: place, mental health, services, data collaboration, GIS
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Health geographers have long been concerned with understanding how rural contexts influence mental health. These insights are difficult to obtain as rural service planning is often plagued by a lack of place-based data. In this study, we test using routinely collected datasets from four Australian non-governmental organisations’ (NGO) to assess technical feasibility and potential for insights. We use an innovative “data collaborative” methodology to relate multiple NGO data sets in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to provide partial, but inter-related, understandings of mental health service experiences in rural places. Bringing ‘hidden’ qualitative experience data into conversation with quantitative service need and crisis incident data via a GIS, has potential to reveal new place-based insights that could inform rural mental health service delivery challenges. This includes identifying where mental health needs are not being met and potential reasons as to why, through considering topics discussed in related qualitative experiences of mental health services in online forums. As well as providing rich information about experiences of stigma and inaccessible mental health services, data reveal specific challenges from relationship breakdowns and being new to an area. Drawing on need/demand, crisis incidents and experience data we show how it can be feasible and have value to use emergent data science techniques to analyse and visualise where and how needs are (not) being met, providing access to new evidence and helping to build collaborations between NGOs and their data in addressing rural mental health.

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