Phase two of the Ministry of Health's highly successful National Depression Initiative (NDI) has just kicked off and John Kirwan, much-loved former All Black, Japanese national rugby coach and straight talking past depression sufferer has returned as the frontman after his star turn in the first installment. But this time he's starring in a new, more instructive and much more interactive, role.
Kirwan was lauded for opening up about his struggles with depression in the first campaign in 2006, which helped remove some of the stigma around depression and mental illness in New Zealand. He even won an award from the the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners late last year after its members reported a high number of men coming in for help after seeing Kirwan on the ads.
But The Journal, a state of the art, online self-management programme created by DraftFCB has gone even further down the multimedia road and provides New Zealanders with a free and user friendly six-week online programme to help manage cases of mild to moderate depression.
In a similar fashion to the multi award-winning TheLowdown.co.nz website, an online platform where musicians, sportspeople, celebrities and everyday Kiwis shared their experiences of depression and talked about what they found helpful, The Journal includes step-by-step video clip sessions fronted by Kirwan, structured problem solving techniques and text and email prompts.
And it's also more than just an information source: the fully integrated programme is backed up by experienced counsellors to ensure users have access to personalised help, either online, by phone or text.
Brian van den Hurk, managing director, social change at DraftFCB, says making it easier for people to manage their own health problems is an emerging trend and online technology is an important tool in the way health services are delivered. But, unlike many other international self management programmes that are developed entirely by academic institutions, The Journal was developed by a combination of the DraftFCB interactive and creative teams and top New Zealand mental health professionals.
As a result, he says it is a sophisticated programme using leading edge technology, but it has an incredibly down-to-earth feel. It's also easy to use and, with a range of different mediums available to engage with the participants, people are able to interact with the programme (and the health professionals at the other end) on their own terms.
"People literally only need internet access to begin to self manage their mild-to-moderate depression and start to make positive changes in their lives," he says.
The Journal is the culmination of a remarkably successful four-year Ministry of Health National Depression Initiative, which DraftFCB has been part of from the start.
“Both the NDI campaign fronted by John Kirwan and the Lowdown website and services targeting youth have effected major change in the way New Zealanders now openly talk about and seek help for their depression. Research has shown that a large cross section of New Zealanders strongly relate to John Kirwan. They consider him to be genuine and inspirational given his own experience with depression and we are confident he will be a strong motivator for people to give The Journal a try."