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Mental wealth initiative

An early warning system for mental health
Building the social fabric and economic prosperity of communities by developing new tools to measure, monitor and forecast national and regional dynamics of Mental Wealth.

About the research

The Mental Wealth Initiative at the Brain and Mind Centre combines experts across business, economics, law, social policy and mental health to empower communities to foster their mental wealth.

Our transdisciplinary research team harnesses systems modelling, simulation and data science techniques to understand the factors that generate positive outcomes for mental health across the lifecourse and contribute to thriving, productive and resilient communities. 

Our approach

A unique collaboration to understand and communicate the social and economic value of population mental health and wellbeing. Our research provides an early warning system for downturns in mental wealth and estimates the impact of economic and social policy solutions and strategies to strengthen the mental health system.

The Mental Wealth of a nation is the combined cognitive and emotional resources of all its peoples.

Mental illness and its impact on the national economy is significant and yet under-researched. One key reason lies in the difficulty of applying health economics to mental illness as many of the costs exist outside the realm of health services and within economic constructs – housing, education, employment and more.

The Mental Wealth Initiative aims to address four key questions:

  • What is mental wealth and how can it be maximised in an Australian context?
  • How can the concept of mental wealth drive better policy?
  • Are resources allocated efficiently to promote mental health and address mental illness in Australia?
  • Where are the best returns on investment in responding to the burden of mental illness in Australia?

Answers to these questions will better place Australia and our population in dealing with mental health by ensuring our constructs and frameworks, both within and outside of the health sector, are optimised to effectively reduce the personal and economic burden associated with mental illness.

  • Overall, the cost of the burden of disease associated with serious mental illness in Australia in 2019 has been estimated at around $43-51 billion per year of total Gross Domestic Product, however, this does not include the impact of psychological distress independent of serious mental illness.
  • The case for investing in population mental health and wellbeing is not only morally and socially compelling, it is economically fundamental. 
  • There is an often-overlooked vital link between the mental wellbeing of Australians and our economic performance as a nation.
  • National and international collaborating partners of the Mental Wealth Initiative recognise the importance of properly accounting for the broader whole-of-economy impacts of the social determinants of mental ill health, like housing, employment, and education to provide a holistic assessment of the economic impact of diminished mental health and wellbeing.
  • We also recognise the need for significant investment in bringing together economic, clinical and mental health services research, and policy reform expertise, to integrate broader macroeconomic factors into our models that drive, and are driven by, a nation’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly among young people.

Systems modelling and simulation

Dynamic Systems Modeling has been a keystone of the Brain and Mind Centre's work in youth mental health policy since 2019. In the aftermath of the NSW bushfires of early 2020 and as the nation responds to the impact of COVID-19, our dynamic modelling for mental health and suicide prevention has been widely referenced in media coverage and policy debate.

The following resources were produced by the Brain and Mind Centre's Dynamic Systems Modeling experts. They are supporting materials for the “Flattening the Mental Health Curve” series of webinars held from March to July 2020 and were produced in collaboration with health networks, researchers and partners.

A/Prof Atkinson presented to this program of research at her address to the National Press Club.

Policy Reports

Mental Health Priorities - 15 September 2020 (pdf, 406 kb) 

Mental health funding priorities responding to COVID-19, and opportunities for building long-term reform. Produced in September 2020 together with the Australian National University, this paper recommends funding priorities for mental health reform.

Rethinking Mental Health in Australia - August 2020 (pdf, 670 kb)

Adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 and planning for a brighter future. This paper sets out key principles that should guide longer-term mental health reform: outlining the challenges for Australia’s mental health system, following a series of events with mental health and policy leaders over 2019 and 2020.

Strategic, Systemic and Structural: Options for Mental Health Reform in Australia - April 2022 (pdf, 854.6 kb)

This paper has been prepared by the Brain and Mind Centre and supported by the Sydney Policy Lab. It reflects engagement with Australians for Mental Health and a group of almost 50 key stakeholders expressing provider, consumer, carer and other mental health perspectives. This group is known as the Sydney Mental Health Policy Forum.

The Forum has provided advice regarding opportunities for the next Federal government to undertake impactful, strategic change in mental health. These opportunities are described throughout this paper.

Proceedings of the Mental Wealth Initiative Launch Workshop 2021

Insights From our International Partners & Thought Leaders

Mental Wealth Initiative Launch Highlights

Our team

Jo-An Occhipinti

  • Brain and Mind Centre, 94 Mallett Street, Camperdown, NSW