Changing the lives of young New Zealanders by teaching them how to understand and improve their mental health

By giving young people the skills and information to recognise and understand their own mental health, they can talk about, manage and maintain it and help others to do the same.

We’ve established the Foundation to help support young New Zealanders by reducing the negative impact that unidentified and unsupported mental health issues have on them.

Many schools are currently providing mental health programmes and doing this really well, but not all schools are equipped to do so.  We will work with schools to make sure the tools to achieve mental wellness are available to more students.


from our FOUNDER


“Anxiety and depression used to overwhelm and control me. Now I’ve learned to understand and manage my mental health. I believe wellness is every day.

I’ve been at the forefront of mental health awareness for fifteen years, however our suicide and mental health statistics are still heading in the wrong direction. Half of adults experiencing mental illness first become unwell during adolescence, and around one in five young New Zealanders will experience mental health issues by the time they are 18. Sadly, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of suicide in the developed world.

It is my dream that, through our Foundation, we will turn these figures around.

The Foundation’s focus is to build a programme that educates our young New Zealanders around all aspects of mental health so they will be well positioned to recognise and positively deal with life when it gets a bit tough. We want them to grow up with a better understanding of mental health and how to manage it.”



The Black Dog is a well-known metaphor for depression and the process one goes through to tame it. Working with our brand agency, Ellen and Company, our dog has been turned into a stylised balloon animal, enhancing the idea that we can be in control of and manage our depression.

Our wooden dogs, designed and produced locally, are a symbol of support which can be used by young people as a signal when they or someone they know aren’t able to speak about how they are feeling. We want our dog to become their voice so they can always ask for help.

Removing the stigma around mental illness is fundamental to helping young people, and turning the Black Dog from something to be feared to something to be mastered, managed and controlled is an intrinsic part of our story.



We believe it’s important that young people understand both the IQ and EQ of mental health.

IQ – Intelligence Quotient – the knowledge and skills to recognise and understand what mental health and wellbeing is;

EQ – Emotional Quotient – the knowledge and skills to nurture and maintain their own mental health and to support others with theirs.

Work is underway looking at the current state of mental health, existing education available, the challenges to be considered along with global best practice examples from a wide range of innovative learning programmes and age appropriate techniques.

To determine new and innovative ways to engage and educate young people we are working with experts from a range of different fields to develop an educational platform that will help our youth grow up with the skills to understand and improve their mental health.

Once developed we’ll work with schools in a supportive way so they are able to implement mental health education with their students.


We’ve collaborated with Barkers on a range of t-shirts to raise awareness of mental health and the Foundation. $20 from every t-shirt purchased goes towards helping give young New Zealanders the skills to understand and improve their mental health. Thanks Barkers! Available in store or online.


The Sir John Kirwan Foundation is not a clinical service.  We are not able to provide emergency support or counselling services.  To access these please see below.

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, please visit your local GP or free call or text 1737 to talk to someone for advice and support.

If you are concerned about someone’s immediate safety contact your local health services.

Or if you or someone else is in danger or at risk of endangering others, call the Police immediately on 111

There are a number of great New Zealand and International websites that provide useful information and support to manage your own mental health and wellbeing, and that of others.  Click below to check them out.


Thank you to our partners

The generous support of our partners allows us to do the work we are doing. Our heartfelt thanks to each of you.