In the first episode of season two of Kiwibank’s This is Kiwi podcast, we talk to Jazz Thornton – mental health advocate, author, director, speaker, reality TV contestant and social media star.
This story and podcast episode mention mental health issues as well as suicide. Please take care.
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Across the world, evidence continues to show a huge gap between those who need help with mental health, and the help that is available – Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2021 report into mental health says that around 21% of adolescent boys and girls aged 10-19 live with a mental disorder.
Youth advocate Jazz Thornton has made it her mission to help rangatahi struggling with their mental health. Her mahi in this space spans far and wide, from helping rangatahi to access help to writing books and advocating for mental health with her social media following of over three million and her charity Voices of Hope.
The importance of this continued advocacy is the focus of the first episode of This is Kiwi’s brand new second season, as host Jane Yee speaks with Thornton about the meaning of resilience, how to find strength in the face of adversity and why she first decided to share her own story.
In their kōrero, Thornton explains the complex and sometimes harrowing journey that led her to advocacy, and shares how her first-hand experiences of bullying, abuse and acute depression at a young age informed her worldview and approach as an adult.
But despite the trauma, she says, she wouldn’t take any of her journey back. “The life I get to live now, and the people I get to impact, [that’s] because of how broad my story is, and that it covers a lot of subjects. I can relate to so many people.”
Thornton has millions of followers from around the world looking up to her, and says that having to be “on” when not feeling 100% is an exhausting prospect.
She says being in her position does add pressure, but through all of her teaching and learning over the years, she’s learnt that even when she feels low, there is always hope and a reason to get up and speak.
“I think there’s just a part of me that is like, it’s selfish of me to not do it when I know that I can get up and speak to however many hundreds or thousands of people that might be in the room. And out of those people that need to hear that, that might choose to stay another day, because you’ve got no idea what stories you’re walking into.”
Through the growth of Voices of Hope, her book deals and social media fame, Jazz’s earning potential has grown too. But Jazz funnels a lot of that straight back into the causes she campaigns for. “Coming from the position that I did and struggling in the way that I did, has made me a lot less caring about money [for herself] in the way that I know that [sharing] it will create so much more impact for other people than what it will for me.”
“I have a specific account that’s only for giving to people. It’s something that I’m very, very glad I get to do. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
Where to get help
If you found this story upsetting or triggering, talking with someone about how you are feeling can be helpful. This includes friends and family or others in your life, or you can contact formal support services:
- 1737 Need to Talk? Free call or free text 1737 any time for support from a counsellor or peer
- Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE)
- Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email email@example.com
- If you are or someone important to you is in crisis right now call 111, go to your nearest emergency department or phone your local DHB Mental Health Crisis Team (find those local details at www.healthpoint.co.nz).
- For further information and suicide prevention resources visit The Mental Health Foundation’s website.
The first episode of season two of This is Kiwi is out now. Subscribe and download wherever you get your podcasts.