Stigma Reduction Therapies — 05 April 2017
Reducing suicides in Australia will be a key focus for beyondblue over the coming years, the mental health organisation’s next chair Julia Gillard says.

The former prime minister told a public lecture at the University of Adelaide on Wednesday that beyondblue is working on a suicide prevention strategy and spoke about the importance of tackling the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Beyondblue last week announced Ms Gillard would become its chair when former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett steps down from the role in June after 17 years.

Ms Gillard says Mr Kennett first conceived beyondblue to raise awareness of depression and combat stigma around it but has since expanded its focus to include anxiety and is now embracing the “hard challenge” of reducing suicide. She says eight Australians die of suicide each day, while 200 attempt to take their own lives.

“Beyondblue is working on a strategy that will bring together the best evidence from here in Australia, and around the world, to combat suicide,” she said.

“We will scope what more we need to learn and we will propose our own actions for change.” Ms Gillard said beyondblue will also continue to focus on making it easier for the three million Australians experiencing depression or anxiety to get support.

That will involve the organisation advocating for Primary Health Networks around Australia to offer its NewAccess program, a free mental health coaching service that was recently launched in Adelaide, she said.

Photo credit: The Herald Sun

Photo credit: The Herald Sun

Ms Gillard said mental health and suicide hold a “deep personal significance” for her, especially as her father worked as a psychiatric nurse for three decades.

But she admitted she still had much to learn.

“I’m still learning about all of this area. I’m still learning about what we can best do as beyondblue in the future,” she said.

Previously, Ms Gillard said she had looked forward to advocating for mental health and honouring her father’s work.

As a former prime minister, she expects she will bring added attention to the organisation and advocate in different ways. “I know that they’re big shoes to fill and I don’t think I wear the same size as Jeff so I’ll be doing the job a little bit differently,” she said.

“But beyondblue is such an important organisation to the Australian community that I do feel a special sense of delight at having been selected to lead it.”

Mr Kennett, a former Victorian Liberal leader, said the appointment of the former Labor leader reinforced beyondblue’s “fierce” bipartisanship.

This piece was orginally published on the ‘The Herald Sun’ March 29, 2017.

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