Depression and suicide: Sir John did us all a big favour

John Kirwan became the public face of depression, and we all owe him for it

If we can acknowledge that depression is not a weakness and suicide is not an option, we can change the world.

Those were Sir John Kirwan’s rousing words to a large audience gathered for the Westpac-sponsored ambassador’s depression and mental health talk in Alexandra yesterday.

Kirwan said attitudes to mental ill-health were changing, but not fast enough.

“Suicide is the end of an illness; it’s a tragedy and it leaves devastation in its wake.”

Knighted in 2012 for his services to mental health and rugby, the former All Black said his mission was to push for more government-funded campaigns, such as suicide prevention advertisements, to spread the message that death by suicide was unacceptable

Long time readers will know the Whaleoil crew have their own struggles with depression. ?For those of you who think we just need to snap out of it, be glad you don’t know what it is like. ?Once it grabs hold of your thinking, your brain starts to lie to you, and you are willing to listen. ?

It creates a downward spiral that in some cases, isn’t stopped on time.

With first-hand experience during his own battle with depression, Kirwan coined an often-used phrase: “Suicide’s a long-term solution to a short-term problem,” a theme he reiterated at the meeting.

“Depression nearly killed me . . . I was gone – I was absolutely gone.”

But he started to get better and to reach out for help when he took “fear out of the equation”; fear of facing up to his problems and fear of failure, he said.

Kirwan also said he had forgotten about taking pleasure in “the little things” in life.

He asked the audience when was the last time they’d danced, laughed or hugged someone.

I know a number of loyal readers have their own battles. ? If you have been thinking of taking your own life, or worse, have been planning how to go about it, then this is your wake-up call. ? Your brain is lying to you. ?People do care. ?Yes they will miss you. ?Yes they will be devastated.

Once you’re in the hole, it doesn’t seem worth it – take it from me, an others, there IS a way back out.

Ask for help.




If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:


Samaritans 0800 726 666

Depression helpline 0800 111 757

Rural Support Trusts 0800 787 254

In an emergency, do not hesitate to call 111

Alternatively, you can also talk to your local GP or nurse.


– Mary-Jo Tohill, Southland Times