young people standing together talking by a wall

Mental wealth and resilience, our national resource

Opportunities for participation the key to recovery

Lead researcher for the Brain and Mind Centre's new Mental Wealth Initiative presents dynamic modelling to the National Press Club

Research conducted by the Brain and Mind Centre's Mental Wealth Initiative puts particpation at the centre of national mental health recovery, labelling JobKeeper as a vital mental health intervention.

The research was presented to the National Press Club by systems modelling scientist and head of the Mental Wealth Initiative Associate Professor Jo-An Atkinson, who joined inaugural commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission and current chair of the Australian National Research Organisation for Women's Safety, Sam Mostyn, for a discussion on mental health, resilience and recovery.

In her address, A/Prof Atkinson described mental wealth as the "collective cognitive and emotional resources of its citizens," outlined the task ahead for our mental health system and presented opportunities for recovery based on her team's dynamic modelling research.

She said that her team's updated modelling conducted in response to the Reserve Bank of Australia's revised estimates in August revealed:

  • the prevelence of psychological distress across Australia would peack at around 45% by April 2022
  • the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training is projected to peak at 38% in major cities and 42% in regional areas
  • youth mental health-related emergency department presentations are projected to increase by 26%, self-harm hospitalisations by 28% and suicide deaths by 30% over the  next five years.
  • the projected cost of lost productivity over March 2020 to March 2025 is estimated to be $114 billion.

The Challenge of unintended consequences

One of the great challenges for mental health policy is investing in targeted, place-based intervientions on a national scale, and which yield both immediate and long-term benefits. A/prof Atkinson said the vast array of risk factors associated with poor mental health have resulted in many potential targets for intervention, however the system is stretched and complicated by the broad range of intervientions. Spreading solutions too widely can have unintended consequences.

"More is not better.

"Our National  Mental Health Pandemic Response plan has 77 priority actions. These ... provide no estmate of the scale of impact the actions are likely to have, and could actually be undermining the potential impact of investments."

Participation - the key to mental health

A/ Prof  Atkinson said her team's modelling provided a forecast for the combination of interventions that would have the most impact at local and national scales:

  • extending Jobkeeper until May 2022
  • investing in education support programs
  • scaling up post suicide attempt assertive aftercare across the country
  • increasing community based specialist mental health service capacity; and
  • investing in technology-enabled coordinaton of team-based care

"This trajectory is not inevitable. The primary purpose of the model is to provide a safe environment to test a range of strategies that could help Australia avoid this trajectory."

Click here to read the full speech

How a nation nurtures mental capital, mental health and wellbeing through education, economic security, housing, healthcare, psychological and cultural safety... will have a significant on its economic prosperity and collective resilience of communities."
Associate Professor Jo-An Atkinson