The huge success of celebrities coming out about depression

John Kirwan (legendary All Black) and Mike King (legendary comedian) are two very high profile kiwis raising the issues of mental health.

John Kirwan, former rugby union star winger, has become a well-known face on television adverts speaking about his own depression. He speaks about his struggle with depression during his time as an All Black from 1984 to 1994, and of the difficulty going public due to the stigma associated with mental illness.

"When I was first asked to do the national health campaign, I was scared," he said. "I was scared people would think I was a freak."

Since the ads began in 2006, he's had had people come up to him and thank him for saving their lives. "For me, that's been more important than being an All Black."

Entertainer Mike King nearly ended his life in a three-day cocaine binge in a Hong Kong hotel room. King said that event was the culmination of 30 years of addiction which went hand-in-hand with and fed his depression.

Mike regularly appears on New Zealand TV and radio, and has managed to raise the media coverage and discussion of mental health enormously. He runs a Facebook group The Nutters Club, and is the Patron of the Phobic Trust.

Mike continues to be a fantastic entertainer but now also gets the message across that we need to be serious about mental health in order to make the most of our lives.

This world map shows the suicide rate per 100,000 people in each country Source

fruit and veg

You can clearly see that it's not just poverty and political instability that increases suicide rates. A surprising number of OECD countries with a good standard of living also have high suicide rates: I'd heard that Japan and Finland had problems. But Belgium, Switzerland, France, and New Zealand? That came as a real shock.

Incredibly, it looks likely that this decade New Zealand will lose more people to suicide than to road accidents (and not because there's a low rate of road accidents).

This table ranks OECD countries by suicide rate Source


Between 1995 and 2000, New Zealand and Finland had the highest suicide rates for young men (aged between 15 and 24) in the OECD countries.

But the figures for New Zealand have improved in the past decade, as you can see here - they are now about halfway down the list.


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