Plexus: Data-Driven Mental Health Support Launches for UK Workforce

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odiby Angela Guess

Using open data and funding from the Open Data Institute, M/A aims to support people with mental health conditions in the workplace and those signed off from work

(November 3, 2015) Mental health conditions are a growing concern in the UK, affecting one in four people,1 costing the economy £70bn a year, and contributes to 40% of disability benefit claims annually – the highest recorded in Europe.2

Committed to help bridge this employment gap, digital consultancy M/A, and the Open Data Institute (ODI), today announce the launch of Plexus – an application and knowledge base – helping people with mental health conditions return to employment and manage conditions.

Support throughout winter

The launch of Plexus coincides with the crucial winter months, when NHS emergency services are predicted to witness over a million mental health related admittances to A&E.3

UK mental health data from February 2015 shows:4

  •  254K people in the UK with mental health conditions (MHC) signed off from work for less 12 months
  •  The South East (32.5K) has the highest amount of people with MHC signed off from work for less than 12 months, with the North West (30.8K) coming second, followed by Greater London (30.3K), Scotland (46.4K), and Yorkshire and the Humber (24.8K)
  •  63.2% of people on Disability Living Allowance with MHChave learning difficulties, followed by 23.4% with Psychoneurosis, and 7.8% with Behavioural difficulties


  •  Provides information on local support systems best-suited to a person’s needs
  •  Raises civil rights standards in the workplace including employer responsibilities to signed-off and returning employees
  •  Shows routes into new employment from volunteering, part-time and full-time employment opportunities
  •  Prepares users for the job application process providing advice on applying, interview tips, and managing stress and anxiety
  •  Contextualises mental health conditions locally, showing the effects it has on employment within a region or local authority

Building better understanding with open data

Plexus is the first of its kind to provide a holistic view of mental health and local services from a variety of open data sources.5 It will also collect and publish its own open data, for anyone to access, use and share.

Martin Vowles, Director at M/A said: “We’ve seen first-hand the positive role employment can make in managing mental health conditions, such as improving confidence and instilling self worth as part of a team.

Over years to come, Plexus will allow us and others to learn from the open data that is collected and used, and in turn, will enable a wider understanding of mental illness. We recognise Plexus is part of a wider solution required, and hope it plays a targeted role in helping users – together with their employers, and families – realise their value in the workplace, manage conditions, and implement successful techniques.”

Jeni Tennison, Deputy CEO and Technical Director at the ODI said: “M/A has demonstrated how powerful it can be to bring together open data from a range of providers to help resolve complex issues, such as mental health, that affect both individual wellbeing and the wider economy. Combining open data from the third sector and government enables charities, employers and the NHS to work together and provide integrated services that will support vulnerable people in our society.

We are proud to have been part of this process, supporting the M/A team to transform a great idea into the beginnings of an essential support system.”

M/A was inspired by knowledge acquired whilst working with mental health charity Mind, and developed Plexus with ODI funding and support as a commissioned ODI summer showcase project.

Learn more here.

photo credit: ODI

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