Westpac Ambassador Sir John Kirwan is embarking on a journey around New Zealand, speaking in community halls and schools about his personal story and messages around depression, hope, and mental wellness.
At the events, JK will open up about his own experiences, and focus on resilience and courage in the rural community to farmers struggling with tough times including low dairy and meat prices.
Speaking from experience
Publicly outing himself as prone to depression, JK has earned the respect of the rural sector who traditionally prefer to take the strong and silent approach.
He says he’s looking forward to meeting some of the farmers.
“I just tell my story. Why would I be depressed? I had the perfect world. I was an All Black living a great life. And often that’s the first question you’d say to yourself, you know.
“There are a couple of things that are really important for me. Firstly, depression, it’s an illness, not a weakness.”
JK's goal: no more suicides in New Zealand
The Westpac Ambassador will also be speaking with high school students at schools in the various towns he’ll be visiting.
“Youth in New Zealand and our rural sector have the highest suicide rates, so it’s not something we can't ignore. It’s something I want to tackle head on and openly talk about because you can get through it and there’s a lot of hope out there if you reach out and look for it.”
He says one of the most important things is continuing to talk about the issues.
“The thing about our farmers is that they’re incredibly isolated with a lot of the challenges being out of their control – the weather, milk prices, sheep prices, interest rates – so it’s a very, very difficult industry.
“I don’t pretend to know what people are going through or what’s pushed them to be unwell, but what I do know is I’ve been there and done that, and a lot of the symptoms are the same and a lot of the recovery you can do is the same.”
JK says the idea of this tour is to stand up, be real, and have an honest, open conversation.
“We’ve got a cool itinerary planned so I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”
Those keen to head along are encouraged to register as soon as possible as there are limited seats available.