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Sir John

Reshaping the Way We Think About Mental Health

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Back when I was really unwell, it was the hardest thing I ever did to reach out and ask for help. I thought people would call me weak, call me names, but the exact opposite happened.

Sir John Kirwan thought speaking out about his mental health would ruin his career. But when the All Blacks legend shared his journey with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ruminations, he sparked one of the most influential mental health campaigns of his generation.

It was August, 1991, when Sir John Kirwan - JK to most - wanted to jump out of a 10-story hotel window in Argentina. He was on tour with the All Blacks and arguably at the height of his rugby career. On paper, he had it all. On the inside, he was in turmoil. He felt like an imposter in his own life, and he wanted out.

Current Work:

Today, JK talks openly about that night in Argentina and the years that followed. He’s an incredibly uplifting and inspiring storyteller - the type that can get a room full of suits up and dancing like noone is watching. He speaks with conviction, empathy, feel-good energy, and a sprinkling of good-natured humour (which he always weaves in at just the right moments; he’s masterful at reading a room).

Of course, talking about mental health hasn’t always been easy for JK. He began sharing his story at a time when it wasn’t ‘the done thing’ - especially not for an elite sportsman. The 1987 World Cup Winner and top try scorer could have kept quiet, but he was driven by a purpose bigger than himself: he wanted to help others feel less alone.

Fast forward several years and JK is now widely recognised as one of ‘the faces’ of depression and anxiety in New Zealand. In 2012, he was knighted for his services to mental health, an honour he strives to live up to every day. He’s the founder of several mental wellbeing organisations including the Sir John Kirwan Foundation, Mitey, and most recently, Groov, a workplace mental wellbeing platform. He’s also the author of All Blacks Don’t Cry: A Story of Hope and Stand By Me: Helping Your Teen Through Tough Times.

JK is a captivating and endearing speaker that strives to leave people feeling a little better than when he found them. He’s also a huge advocate for action-based learning and loves to give people practical steps to test out in their daily lives. He’s exceptional at encouraging people to think differently about mental health and makes a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to hear him speak.

Talking Points

Everyone better, every day

One of JK’s personal and professional missions is to help 100 million people with their daily mental wellbeing.

He’s a huge believer in having a daily mental health plan to help you feel good and function well. In this candid talk, he’ll share how creating his own daily mental health plan “saved his life” and give people a framework for creating their own. People will walk away with new tools for how to find their Groov, as well as a renewed sense of optimism about their mental wellbeing.

Men’s Health

JK has an uncanny ability to crack open conversations about men’s health and break down barriers most thought impossible.

In this talk, he draws from his own experience navigating mental health challenges as a man in New Zealand - “some days I’d just cry, and if you were brought up like me, crying was a failure” - and shares how he overcame harmful stereotypes to seek the help and support he needed.

People will walk away with a new understanding of men’s health and how to better support themselves or the men in their lives.

Workplace wellbeing

After decades of campaigning for better awareness around mental health, JK was confronted with an uncomfortable truth - suicide stats were moving in the wrong direction. He realised he needed to try a new approach, and he chose to go right to the heart of where people spend a huge amount of their lives: the workplace.

In this talk, he shares the road to co-founding Groov - a workplace mental wellbeing platform - and why he believes “the future of work is wellbeing”.

People will walk away from this talk with a completely new outlook on what it means to be a leader and a compelling vision for creating a wellbeing-first work culture.

High Performance Teams

JK has spent most of his life in high-performing teams - be it as an All Black, rugby coach, or co-founder - and he’s picked up more than a thing or two about leadership along the way.

Though, his insights might surprise you. In this talk, JK reflects on what he believes is truly at the heart of high-performing teams: something he calls ‘Performance Care’. He shares why caring for your people should come first (always) and how this doesn’t have to get in the way of productivity.

People will walk away with a fresh perspective on the care-productivity dynamic and actionable ways to improve the performance of their teams.
He was an absolutely professional and gave so much of himself at the event. Would most definitely recommend him as a speaker! Silver Fern Farms

Let's talk, enquire with Janika now

Janika Barnes

Senior Consultant - Saxton Speakers

Let's talk, enquire with Janika now

Janika Barnes

Senior Consultant - Saxton Speakers

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