Sir John Kirwan raising money for programme to teach children mental health

Sir John Kirwan says our primary schools should teach mental health as part of the curriculum, just like they teach English and maths.

The All Blacks legend is raising money for a mental health programme that he wants to extend into more schools because he says COVID has worsened psychological issues for children.

Let's face it, the 2020s have been terrible for many of us. We lived through lockdown after lockdown.

"Yeah the first one was quite good I think... [then] it started to wear thin with the consequent ones," Maria Basevi told Newshub.

"I think the kids found it definitely challenging at times with just being us at home."

Maria, her husband and daughters, 13-year-old Mercedes and 9-year-old Mackenzie, have seen good times and bad times.

"It was fun with my family at first but then I got a little bit sick of them - I just wanted some space and I was allowed that, which was good," Mercedes said.

"The first year was exciting but then it was like I'm bored with this, can we go back to school," Mackenzie added.

And even when Mackenzie did return to the classroom she's seen COVID coursing through her friends and their families.

"Sometimes they're sick so then I've got no one to play with and no one to do things with," she said.

Sir John said it's all adding to the anxiety and that's why he's rolling out the Mitey mental health programme in scores of primary schools and he's busy raising cash to extend the programme even further.

"Give those kids the skills to deal with that. Thinking about giving them the pride to have mana in themselves but also the tools that they need."

He said kids need to learn these skills young as part of the curriculum.

"They'll learn English, maths, science, but they'll also learn mental health delivered through the teachers," he said.

Sarah Jane Paine has conducted several interviews as research for the Growing up in New Zealand project.

Initial results suggest many kids did OK in the first 2020 lockdown and felt protected in their bubbles, but she wonders how long that resilience will remain.

"I wonder if the long period of COVID and the ongoing lockdowns has somehow degraded or reduced the amount that we've been able to protect ourselves and protect our families."

COVID has taken a physical toll on many with around 1500 deaths, but the mental toll is yet to be fully measured.