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Gillard: 'I Wish I Understood More' About Mental Health As PM

Since stepping away from politics, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dedicated her time to helping the nation's mental health battle.

But while mental health was an issue during her time in parliament, she said in her new position as Chair of Beyond Blue she has learnt much more about how individuals deal with and experience mental health concerns.

"You do have incredibly intimate conversations as a member of parliament and the more prominent you are, the more people think they know you, and they'll come up to you and tell you the most personal and intimate things about them in that first conversation," Gillard told The Project.

"I kind of wish I'd understood more of what I understand now from the Beyond Blue perspective, maybe I might have had some of those conversations better than I did."

Gillard spoke to The Project following the release of alarming new statistics on Australian men's experiences with mental health and self-harm.

READ MORE: Julia Gillard Tackles The Scourge Of Male Suicide

READ MORE: Mental Health 'The Cinderella' Of Australian Medical Care, Expert Warns

The world-first Australian study found men are attempting suicide at three times the rate previously thought, with six men a day taking their own lives.

The new study, titled Beyond The Emergency, found over 30,000 men had to be attended by an ambulance for attempted suicide or suicidal thoughts between June 2015 and July 2016.

“This fuller data set from ambulances means that the degree of the problem is three times bigger than we thought,”  Gillard said, saying she was shocked by the statistics.

"These are statistics that do shock, but when you get something like this you need to work through the shock and get to the action."

She said it was important men understood they did not need to be the "historic, silent, stoic man, who takes everything on the chin and never admits weakness."

"I think making visible the degree of the problem and the issue is to start of it," Gillard said.

"Encouraging people to talk and letting people know that others have been on this journey."

Reach out. Help is available.

When asked about the recent federal election, in which the Coalition was returned to power, Gillard said she had believed -- like many -- that Labor would have formed government, but admitted in hindsight that the party was outplayed.

"We lost the frame of the campaign, it became a referendum on Labor rather than being a judgement on how the government governs and sort of almost everything else flows from that," she said.

But despite admitting she was disappointed in Labor's loss, she said had faith in the current Labor team to renew and rebuild for the next election, under new leader Anthony Albanese.

"Albo is very well positioned to do that for Labor," she added.

READ MORE: Albo Is Officially Labor Leader After Every Other Contender Dropped Out

READ MORE: Anthony Albanese Finally Confirmed How To Say His Last Name

Gillard quit politics in 2013 after a series of back-and-forth challenges between herself and former Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

Keeping true to her promise at the time, Gillard removed herself from the political spotlight after she lost a leadership vote, and has remained notably quiet -- at least compared to other former prime ministers, who have remained outspoken in recent years.

Julia Gillard, Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd
Julia Gillard, Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd at The Labor Campaign Launch. Image: AAP Photos.

Gillard said it was a conscious choice she made, to extricate herself from political commentary.

"Once I had gone, I deliberately took the decision that I would no longer be a commentator on domestic political affairs," she said.

"I invest my faith in the current team and they don't need me looming up over their shoulder with ideas or tips or anything like that, they need to get on with it. 

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.