Julia Gillard is urging people to adopt a simple approach to improving their mental health, warning against short-term fixes that are particularly prevalent when a new year dawns.
In a message posted yesterday on the website of Beyond Blue, the mental health support organisation she has chaired since July 2017, the former prime minister said she coped with the stresses of political life through uncomplicated means.
Ms Gillard said she had continued that approach since retiring from politics following Labor’s 2013 election loss, which came less than three months after she lost the prime ministership to Kevin Rudd.
“I know from my own life experience that even in the most stressful times, going for a walk and getting some fresh air made a difference; now I get to do that on the beach in Adelaide,” Ms Gillard said.
“My life can be hectic with lots of work, travel and time away from home, so to relax I like to read books … I try to build quiet moments into even the most frantic of days.
“I enjoy getting outside for some fresh air, taking my dog Reuben for a walk on the beach and spending time with friends and family.
“I also think nothing cures stress quite like a good laugh.”
The federal government spent $4.7 billion last year on mental health. Taking into account state and territory funding, the investment was about $9bn.
Ms Gillard, 57, said while much hype surrounded celebrity exercise programs and “new whiz bang diet plans”, wellbeing could be achieved through common sense. “A new year usually brings resolutions — promises to quit something, start something, do something differently,” she said.
“Resolutions often seem to be health-related, so the ‘wellness’ industry must be booming this time of year.
“Wellbeing doesn’t have to be about embarking on a drastic diet or punishing exercise regimen.
“Sometimes all it takes is a few simple and healthy habits to improve our outlook, both mentally and physically. It doesn’t have to be complicated.”
In October, the Morrison government announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health and its impact on the economy. “Four million Australians deal with some form of chronic or episodic mental health condition,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said. “As well as the individuals affected and people close to them, poor mental health also affects businesses, the hospital system, emergency services and social services.”
A survey last month by the Finder website found almost three-quarters of the 2000 participants had made at least one new year’s resolution. Exercising more and losing weight were by far the most popular choices, followed by an improved diet.