‘don’t want anyone to feel as scared’

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Former All Black and mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan was in Lumsden on Tuesday to raise awareness about depression and anxiety.

Sir John held two sessions, one with Northern Southland College pupils and one in the evening with people in the community at Northern Southland College.

“Rural areas have high risk for depression,” Sir John said.

Sir John said he began to speak out about mental health because of what he went through when he had depression.

“I went through hell. I don’t want anyone to feel as scared as I did,” he said.

He wanted to break down the stigma around mental health and let people know it was important to open up to someone, Sir John said.

“Mental health is part of health. It is important that we look after it.”

He wanted to normalise it by talking about it, he said.

“It’s about creating awareness and understanding.”

It was important to talk to young people about anxiety and depression, Sir John said.

“They need to know that things do get better. It is a long-term solution to a short-term problem.”

Young people had a lot more pressures on them than we used to, he said.

“They need to know what success is. Society tells them that success is being rich and famous.”

Success looked different for everyone, Sir John said.

Young people idolised people such as the Kardashians, but they needed to know that success came in many different forms.

“I’m not blaming anyone. It’s just how society is.”

Bullying was worse with the invention of social media, he said.

“When I was at school, bullying was just punching someone. That was a lot easier to deal with than what is online.”

There was also a lot more pressure on young people trying to get jobs, Sir John said.

Awareness around mental health and suicide was increasing.

“We are getting way better at talking about it.”

But there was still a long way to go.