Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has opened up about her own struggle with mental health during her political career, as she steps into the role of the Beyond Blue chair.
Ms Gillard has said that she struggled with anxiety at times during her prime ministership and that she had to find ways to cope with the “poison” directed at her via social media. “Obviously everybody has moments of anxiety, and I had moments of anxiety, but I did think about what I needed to do to protect my mental health when I was in the rigours of public life,” she said. “As I looked at very negative media headlines – dreadful things on social media – and I did consciously think, I’ve got some choices to make now about how much I let of this into my head.”
Ms Gillard has now taken on the role as the Chair of the National mental health organisation, Beyond Blue and says, “In many ways, my life has come full circle.” Gillard’s father was a psychiatric nurse and Gillard says that this meant her family was always open and aware about the challenges of mental health, “At least in our family, the crippling stigma that still too often surrounds mental health did not exist,” wrote Gillard in the SMH. “In taking up this position, I am honouring the work of my father, and in my own way, continuing it too.”
Ms Gillard says that as Chair, she is hoping to work with Beyond Blue to help build resilience as part of charting a new course in the way that mental health is approached, with a particular focus on children. “We need to start this work with our kids, because resilient children become resilient adults,” she said.
Despite the advances made in acceptance of mental health, there remains a social stigma for many people. Ms Gillard says that only 46 per cent of Australians with anxiety and depression access treatment, citing that stigma still holds a lot of people back. “No one should be missing out when it comes to mental health in 2017,” she said. “ I want to work with all Australian to build a resilient, mentally healthy country… I hope you join me.”