While celebrating Rural Mental Health Week is important, we all need to remember taking care of our wellbeing is an ongoing process, Sir John Kirwan says.
"Mental health is every day and every week. We can't just have these mental health weeks – what we need to understand is mental health is a daily thing," Kirwan told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
The former All Black and mental health advocate shared his own battle with depression and how it affected him.
"It took three things away from me. It took my self-esteem away, it took my self-confidence and it took my enjoyment in life. Life's pretty shit without those three things."
Kirwan learned to reach out to others, but also to understand why the depression was happening.
"It's not a weakness, it's an illness ... what you need to do is understand the science behind it. I think that's really, really important."
Those in the rural sector tended to be "introverted" and isolated, which could drive them overwork themselves, Kirwan said.
"When you get under pressure you work harder. You often will be working seven days a week."
As a "city boy," Kirwan was able to get help and move his focus away from his rugby career to find more balance in his life. He believed this might be more difficult for farmers to achieve, though it was "no fault of their own."
"You've also got cultural pressures. Once upon a time you were the backbone of the country. Now you're the arseholes that pollute it. Which is completely untrue."
Kirwan urged farmers to discuss issues that were putting them under stress.
"There's lots of things going on in the rural area that we just need to be open about and talk about because those things aren't easy to cope with."
Depression and anxiety could affect anyone, even those who appear to have it all, said Kirwan, who experienced an anxiety attack as an All Black during a test match against France.
"I would say to myself – what the hell have I got to be depressed about JK? Why are you depressed? And that made it worse. I was saying – you're playing for the All Blacks, you've got a bloody free car JK – you've got nothing to moan about!"
"What you've got to realise is that … as an illness, it's not prejudiced. It can get anyone at any time."
Once he accepted he had an illness, Kirwan said he was able to "work on it and make it better."
He had developed "smelling the roses" techniques to help him cope, which included trying to find something to look forward to – even if it was as simple as a hot shower.
"Living in that moment and feeling the water – it's still one of the greatest things I do every day."
Savouring a coffee without being distracted by the modern world was another technique he had developed.
Kirwan suggested finding "five or six moments" in the day to be mindful, which he likened to rebooting a computer to get it started again.
It was also important for people to find out what worked for them, Kirwan said.
"Meditation's absolutely amazing but I can't meditate because I have what I call a monkey brain – a ruminating mind – so for me the most important thing that I can do is be an active relaxer."
"So I cook, I play the guitar, I read. And that's like unplugging my brain – that's my meditation. And they're not hard to put into your day."
Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
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)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.