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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.


1.    Jo-An Occhipinti, John Buchanan, Adam Skinner, Allan Fels, Yun Ju C. Song, Kristen Tran, Sebastian Rosenberg, P. Murali Doraiswamy, Petra Meier, Ante Prodan, Ian B. Hickie. Measuring, modelling, and forecasting the Mental Wealth of Nations. Frontiers in Public Health, 2022, Vol 10:

1.    Adam Skinner, Jo-An Occhipinti, Yun Ju Christine Song, Ian B. Hickie. Population mental health improves with increasing access to treatment: evidence from a dynamic modelling analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 2022; Vol 22:

1.    Jo-An Occhipinti, Adam Skinner, P. Murali Doraiswamy, Cameron Fox, Helen Herrman, Shekhar Saxena, Elisha London, Yun Ju Christine Song, Ian Hickie, on behalf of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Mental Health. Mental health: Build predictive models to steer policy. Nature 2021; 597: 633-636:

1.    Yun Ju Christine Song, Sebastian Rosenberg, John Mendoza, Jo-An Occhipinti, Belinda Smith, Adam Skinner, Samuel Hockey, Louise Freebairn, Ian Hickie. Missing in action: The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of mental health care. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 2022; Vol 16 (26):

1.    Jo-An Occhipinti, Ian Hickie, John Buchanan, Sebastian Rosenburg, Mental wealth: Measuring progress towards the wellbeing economy, The Mandarin, 28th July 2022:

1.    John Buchanan, Ian Hickie, Jo-An Occhipinti. Mental wealth and jobs: without it, we’re just pouring water into a leaking bucket. The Conversation, 1st September, 2022:

Erin Smith, Jay Weatherill, Carol Graham, Andrew Robb, Rym Ayadi, Sanjiv Das, Peter Palmer, Jo-An Occhipinti, William Hynes, Thomas Dougherty, and Harris A. Eyre: Brain capital: A new vector for democracy strengthening, Brookings Institution, Up Front, 8th November 2022:

1.    Jo-An Occhipinti, Ian Hickie. Crafting policies to bolster ‘Mental Wealth’ in World Economic Forum, Future Focus 2025 Pathways for Progress from the Network of Global Future Councils 2020–2022: Insight Report June 2022 (page 76-78):

1.    Kristen Tran, John Buchanan, Yun Ju C Song, Sebastian Rosenberg, Jo-An Occhipinti,^ Ian B. Hickie.^  A Mental Wealth perspective: Crossing disciplines to understand the value of collective mental and social assets in the post-COVID-19 era. (Accepted,  International Journal of Mental Health Systems, December 2022)

1.    John Buchanan & Jo-An Occhipinti. Mental wealth – the neglected force in national prosperity. Sydney Business Insights: March 2022.

1.    Jo-An Occhipinti, Ian Hickie. Crafting policies to bolster ‘Mental Wealth’ in World Economic Forum, Future Focus 2025 Pathways for Progress from the Network of Global Future Councils 2020–2022: Insight Report June 2022 (page 76-78):

1.    Jo-An Occhipinti & Adam Skinner. Mathematical modelling and computer simulations guide better mental health policy. Scientific American 2021 (18th September):

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.

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

Policy Reports

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

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, 670KB)

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, 854.6KB)

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.

The Decline in Volunteering: what does it mean for Australia’s Mental Wealth (pdf, 575KB)

Volunteering in Australia is undergoing a period of major change. The rate of volunteering through an organisation has declined over time, with the pandemic having had a major impact over the last two years. Volunteers have been a cornerstone in supporting Australia's crisis resilience, giving crucial aid to communities affected by floods, fires, and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

 A Contributing Life: A Snapshot of the Value of Social Production (pdf, 749KB)

Australians contribute in many ways to the prosperity of our nation, and those contributions change over the course of our lives. Some contributions are measured and valued, while others are not.

The value generated from our economic productivity is captured in GDP, a measure of the strength of the economy. What is not adequately measured and reported is the value generated from our social contributions (social production). These contributions are not only essential to the integrity of the social fabric of our nation, but they also bolster economic productivity and national resilience.

 The Value of Social Production in the United States - Measuring Mental Wealth (pdf, 1.5MB)

Americans contributed more than $2.293 trillion in social production during 2021, according to a new report from the Mental Wealth Initiative and the Reform for Resilience’s Americas Hub at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, along with other national and international partners.

The report, entitled The Value of Social Production in the United States, calculates the total impact of contributions to American society excluded from the metric of gross domestic product (GDP). The measurement calculates the financial value of labor that has traditionally gone unrecognized, including educating and caring for children, volunteer work, participating in community groups, environmental restoration, and informal training and mentoring.

Proceedings of the Mental Wealth Initiative Launch Workshop 2021

Insights From our International Partners & Thought Leaders

Mental Wealth Initiative Launch Highlights

Our team

  • General Manager, Dr Yun (Christine) Song
  • Professor Jakelin Troy
  • Mental Wealth Iniative Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ms Kristen Tran
  • Dr Troy Henderson 
  • Research Affiliate, Dr Ante Prodan
  • Postdoctoral Health & Economics Research Fellow, Dr Andrea Natsky
  • Economist, Mr Raphael Hasudungan
  • Senior Research Officer, Sabuj Mistry
  • Biostatistics Postdoctoral Research Associate, Isabel Li
  • Research Affiliate, Goran Ujdur


  • The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull AC - Former Prime Minister of Australia
  • Lucinda Mary Turnbull AO - Buisinesswoman, Philanthropist, Urbanist
  • Professor Alan Fells AO - Economist, Lawyer, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research
  • The Hon. Dr Craig Emerson - Economist and Former Politician (Australian  Labour Party)
  • Professor William Hynes - Economist and Head of New Approaches to Economic Challenges, OECD Paris
  • Dr Harris Eyre - Neuroscientist, Head of Brain Capital Alliance, San Francisco

Jo-An Occhipinti

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