Mental health talk 'should start in class'

20:50, Aug 22 2014
Sir John Kirwan
BIG JOB: Blues coach Sir John Kirwan will adopt a more hands-on role next season as concerns grow about the Blues' ability to recruit quality coaches.

Long an advocate for mental health awareness, Sir John Kirwan would like to see the discussion move into the classroom.

He was in Manawatu yesterday as part of his national tour on suicide prevention and to encourage people suffering depression or anxiety to seek help.

His visit comes in the wake of figures from the chief coroner's office which show suicides in MidCentral Health's region have almost doubled, increasing from 23 to 41 in the past year.

Kirwan told 50 students at Rangitikei College in Marton more awareness was needed. "I think we need to start teaching it in schools . . . Depression is like any other illness."

Kirwan said while maths, science and English are taught in schools, an understanding of mental health issues should be part of the curriculum too.

"One in three people might be getting divorced - how do you cope with that trauma in your life? There are a whole lot of things that will impact on people's lives and we're not prepared for them.


"And you can fake it, so people think you're all right, when you are not. I was good at hiding it. Why do we think everyone will show they have mental illness? There isn't a sign on your head that says you are miserable."

He said he played rugby for the All Blacks when he was depressed.

"But I saw it as a weakness. I was worried I'd lose everything and be put in a mental institution for life."

He encouraged people to reach out and get help, from a friend, teacher or counsellor.

"Every day for me is fantastic now. Look at me standing in a hall [at Rangitikei College] talking to the future of New Zealand - and you all are. Very cool."

As well as talking to students at an assembly at Rangitikei College, Kirwan talked to hundreds of people at Feilding's Civic Centre.


HOW TO GET HELP Lifeline – 0800 543 354 Depression Helpline (8am to midnight) – 0800 111 757 Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) – KIDSLINE) Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else; noon to midnight) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email Samaritans – 0800 726 666 - visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between noon and midnight).

Manawatu Standard