Former All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder has spoken about one of his darkest moments in a bid to get more young people to break the stigma and talk about mental health.

"It's okay to fail, it's okay to not be okay and it's also okay to talk about it," he said this morning at the unveiling of the Government's new Suicide Prevention Office.

Milner-Skudder opened about his struggles after being ruled out of this year's Rugby World Cup, following injury.

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He said out of all the injuries he has suffered and all of his setbacks, this one was the hardest to digest.

"I had built up in my head what this year was going to look like and I watched it shatter right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it."

Although over the years he had worked up some strategies and resources, he said he still felt himself going into some "pretty dark places".

He said this had probably been one of the toughest years of his life.

"When I was getting over it, I started to get these negative thoughts about being judged; distancing myself from others out of fear about what people might think and how it would play out in the media."

"It all took its toll," he said.

But his message today was one of hope.

"It doesn't matter if we play rugby, cricket or netball, whether we sing or dance. Whether we are men or women; whether we're young or old – we all have challenges we face.


"So whether it's you, a mate or a family member feeling down or anxious or finding things tough, you're not alone."

Milner-Skudder has been an ambassador for the Head First programme – an organisation which promotes mental health and wellbeing in the rugby community.

He said that early on in his career, he didn't have a huge understanding of mental health and took a lot of it for granted.

But over the years, "through wanting to become a better rugby player but more so a better person," he realised the importance of mental health.

He also said after seeing the suicide statistics for young Māori and Pacifica, "I knew I had to try make a difference".

"Things need to change around the stigma around mental health, and masculinity in society, and rugby.

"To be part of that change has been bloody important to me."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also at the launch and said New Zealand's heartbreakingly high level of suicide was shameful.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at the opening of the Suicide Prevention Office. Photo / Aaron Dahmen
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at the opening of the Suicide Prevention Office. Photo / Aaron Dahmen

She said this sad legacy can be changed.

Ardern said the new Suicide Prevention Office would make a difference.

The office has a budget of $40 million, with $12m of that being spent on a Māori and Pacific suicide prevention community fund.