Sir John Kirwan and Northlander Kurt Davies have more than just rugby in common.

The pair have both had their battles with depression and on Wednesday they stood at Kamo High School to talk about mental illness.

All Blacks great and Westpac Ambassador Sir John delivered two talks about depression at the school - one to students and another public talk later in the day attended by hundreds of people.

"I talked about how it's an illness, not a weakness and suicide is not an option, because I know it is. I talked about my experience with the illness, just getting them to reach out for help. It's not a statistic we should be proud of, our suicide rate, and in Northland it's up there. Like any other illness if you get onto it quick enough you can get through it," he said.

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When Sir John spoke to the Kamo High School students he was joined on stage by former Taniwha player, and former Kamo High School student, Kurt Davies who recently opened up about depression in a candid video on Facebook.

"I was really proud of him," Sir John said of Mr Davies "It took me a long time to talk about my illness and he's pretty fresh into his. This is his old high school and he's been a successful rugby player already and it's really amazing that he's going to stand up and share his experiences," he said.

Mr Davies said joining Sir John to talk about depression was "really hard" but "beneficial".

"I talked to [the students] about my experiences with depression and how I got through it and to reiterate John Kirwan's key points. As soon as I finished it felt really good," he said.

Mr Davies spent the day with Sir John, had lunch with him, and was able to interview him.

"He's a really open guy, he has a lot of experiences with rugby and depression and it was good to get knowledge off him."

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Sir John was in Whangarei as a Westpac ambassador, on a public speaking tour aimed at youth in New Zealand and the rural sector, which have the highest suicide rates in the country.

Sir John spent about an hour chatting to people and signing books before he started his talk.

He spoke about how he questioned why he would be depressed when he was an All Black and said it took five years to realise he was unwell. He said when he saw the woman who ended up saving his life he was so embarrassed he parked 2km away.

"She said 'what would you do if you had a tight hamstring?' I said 'ice it, stretch it out and then run a bit'.

"She said 'what if it was still tight?' I said 'ice it and go and see the physio'."

"She said 'your brain's no different' and I got that. I had a hamstring in the head."

Sir John also stressed how important it was to talk to someone and said it was the "first thing you have to do."

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.