'Our moment' to combat suicide: Gillard

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is the current chairwoman of Beyond Blue.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is the current chairwoman of Beyond Blue.

The time is right, for the sake of society and the economy, to tackle suicide and "make the seemingly impossible, possible", former prime minister Julia Gillard says.

The Beyond Blue chairwoman on Tuesday addressed the opening of the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Melbourne, speaking passionately about the need to do more to reduce the number of Australians taking their own lives.

"Suicide is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, but that does not mean we cannot achieve change. When we work together, Australians can make the seemingly impossible possible," Ms Gillard tweeted from the sidelines of the conference.

"In every part of our country, and for the sake of our society and economy, we need to continue to stress that maintaining good mental health and preventing suicide is a social, economic and political imperative."

The former Labor leader said her conversations with politicians have shown there is widespread concern about the suicide rate.

"Never before have public sentiment, political will, and our sectors been so aligned. This is our moment."

The conference comes a week after the release of new statistics showing links between suicide and issues including family breakdowns and economic hardship.

"Suicide prevention reaches well beyond mental health," Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nieves Murray said.

He said the focus should not just be on crisis support, but preventative services to stop people reaching breaking point.

The conference will look at issues including combating stigma and runs until Thursday.

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Australian Associated Press