We are delighted to see John Kirwan being awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours list; the Herald reports:
Sir John Kirwan's wife, Fiorella, knew little of the implications but when he explained the title was largely for his work in mental health, the family understood.After his battles with depression, Sir John became a spokesman and campaigner in New Zealand for mental health issues. He made his problems public to encourage other people to seek help."I remember the day they asked me to do the awareness campaign. It was the hardest thing I ever considered," Sir John said."My philosophy all the way through about mental health is that if I can help one person, it will be great."If you ask me what is depression, it is the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. But my whole journey has been positive."There were scary times because of the stigma attached to depression, but I have tried to break those down because it is an illness, not a weakness."When he was asked to accept the knighthood, Sir John requested 24 hours to think about it. He wondered what people would think and whether it was appropriate.In the end, the 63-test All Black accepted it for his work outside his sporting sphere."It seems like all this is a long way from Mangere," said Sir John of his upbringing, his time at De La Salle College and his butcher's apprentice beginning."Mum's still alive and Dad would also have been really proud, though I can just imagine him telling me something like, 'Don't get too big-headed, boy.'"I've accepted the award on behalf of all those people who are suffering, to show there is hope. My main message is that there is always hope, there is always help, there is always a way out of the troubles."
John Kirwan's battle with depression, which he was candid about at the end of his playing career has given heart to many, many sufferers of depression, ourselves included..
We have struggled with depression for more than 20 years. At the moment we are on top of it, but we know that things can turn quite literally in a heartbeat. But thanks to John Kirwan's candour, and his work as the public face of depression and mental illness, we've learned coping strategies and warning signs, and we're a much more pleasant person to be around; at the moment!
So our admiration for Sir John Kirwan is very personal, and we are thrilled to see his contribution recognised. He really is a deserving recipient of a knighthood, and we both thanks and congratulate him.
Footnote: The full Queen's Birthday Honours list is here.