Sir John Kirwan may not be a familiar name to those of you in the US reading this post. Of course, if you live in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, et al. or even perhaps the U.K., he needs no introduction.
If you’re not familiar, World Cup winner John Kirwan was a New Zealand rugby player (a Kiwi, an All Black). One of the very best from arguably the best rugby-playing nation, from an era when the normal were already the best, and their very best were in a totally different league, so to speak.
Any international rugby player needs to be strong to face the All Blacks’ Haka.
Kiwi’s are hard men; All Blacks are very hard men. Zinzan Brooke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, (Samoa-born) Tuigamala, and of course Jonah Lomu(!) were heroically hard men I watched as a boy, growing up watching rugby, and as such were inspirations to me.
JK was no exception; a man made from steel, unbreakable. I’m a Brit but even I knew that practically every Kiwi looked up to John as the toughest of the tough, because he was, on the outside.
However, he suffered from depression, silently, for years, and severely, too.
Why am I posting this?
I’m posting this for three reasons:
- My sister passed away recently and she suffered from depression. It was not anywhere near her most severe issue but it was bad enough that she saw the bottom, believe me! Consequently I feel empowered to speak.
- Serving and ex-service personnel have a high rate of psychological issues, far greater per capita than civilians, I’m quite sure. My grandfather suffered in silence following his return from Burma in 1945, for the remainder of his life until he passed away in 1996 (over half a century traumatized, privately and silently fighting and internalizing it). Military personnel deserve all the help they can get, whatever, whenever and wherever they need it. But, and taking nothing away from them whatsoever, civilians can suffer from similar psychological issues, including PTSD, just as severely. We are all human.
- If a hard man such as Sir John Kirwan can admit to suffering from depression, so can I. Depression has haunted me for decades; it’s crippled me at times, far more times than I care to remember. I have seen several medical professionals but I don’t think I’ve ever had the correct diagnosis. However, although it took me a long time, I now recognise it and I have coping strategies and techniques in place which help me immensely, plus the fantastic support of loved ones.
John Kirwan was a success and he suffered from depression. During my depression I’ve seen the very, very bottom, but I’ve also succeeded in many areas, and failed in a few. But, I’m in the best place, mentally, that I have been for many years, having acknowledged it, sought help from family and friends, and learned some coping strategies. There is still work to do, I have no doubt.
My sister reached out to me for help, for years, and also immediately prior to her passing. I felt her pain like it was my own. It was agonizingly raw. I tried everything I could to help her.
Will people think more or less of me for admitting I suffer from depression? Fortunately, these days it is no longer any concern to me if they do or if they don’t. Those that know me know my strengths and my weaknesses because, let’s face it, we all have both.
Will I regret being this open? I hope not. Will I regret posting this? Again, I hope not. But, I take strength from my sister that she should have received more help. It’s tough to ask, sometimes impossible, I know, first hand. Therefore, inspired by her, I’m doing it retrospectively.
If you need help:
US: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 in English & Spanish.
UK: The Samaritans, call 116 123 for free, any time, from any phone.
NZ: Lifeline New Zealand, call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354) or text HELP to 3457
AU: Lifeline Australia, call 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14
Ten years ago, after receiving some excellent therapy, which started me on my path to managing my depression, I vowed to champion mental health awareness.
It’s taken me ten years, to start
Thank you for reading.