Bullying victim Jazz Thornton founded the inspirational website Voices of Hope with a friend. Their mission: to spread hope, empowering people to change their lives for the better
“When I was 14 I got to a crossroads. It was literally life or death.”
Hi Jazz, what’s your story?
I grew up in a tiny town in the South Island of New Zealand called Timaru. It’s the kind of town where everyone knows everyone. When I was 16 I moved to Auckland, found a flat and enrolled myself in high school. Auckland was the best place to pursue my interests like acting and presenting.
Can you share your experience with bullying?
It started very young. I remember being 6 years old in primary school and not having any friends – I was the weird kid. They would make fun of my family and treat me like I was contagious. It got a lot worse and had a massive affect on my mental state - I changed schools 3 times.
Why do you think they targeted you?
I stood up to someone else who was getting bullied, which I learnt was a big mistake because then you become the target.
What advice do you have for girls being bullied?
We can tell bullies to stop bullying, but nothing is going to change unless they choose to. The only thing you can do is stop letting it affect you. That could mean actively seeking help or just talking to people - not sitting there and wishing it would stop.
You’ve struggled with depression.
Yes, I was abused as a three year old by three different men who were close to me, and from that age I had this perception that everything was my fault. I fell into a pit where every day I would wake up and not want to be here. The bullying just made me feel more alone.
Supre and Headspace have partnered to help put a stop to bullying.
Find out more here.
What was the turning point for your recovery?
When I was 14 I got to a crossroads. It was literally life or death - I could choose to get help or end my life. That year I discovered The Revolution tour, a New Zealand wide anti bullying event. I met a girl called Esther who gave me hope for the first time. She didn’t just sympathise, she challenged me. She showed me that my thoughts and actions were a choice. I ended up joining the Revolution tour - we do concerts at 200 schools across New Zealand.
Was there a time when your Girl Gang came to your rescue?
In 2012 there was a Facebook hate page made about me, and I really took it to heart. My friends saw the state I was in and they said “Jazz, we’re going to call you tonight and if you don’t answer we’re calling the police.” The entire night they were out looking for me, and they reported the page to Facebook and had it taken down.
How did your website Voices of Hope come about?
A friend of mine had committed suicide, and I posted a status about it on Facebook. A mutual friend called Genevieve contacted me to talk about it. We both wished there was something we could do, then we clicked - we had stories and needed to share them. It started as a Facebook page, but we knew we could impact more people.
You’ve interviewed some famous New Zealand faces. Where did that idea come from?
We look up to these musicians and actors, thinking they’ve got these perfect lives. But the reality is they’ve struggled too, and their experiences can inspire others. We’ve heard stories about anorexia, suicide attempts, struggles with race… The response has been incredible.
What is your vision for Voices of Hope?
We have massive plans. It’s volunteer based so we’re sourcing funding to expand it. We don’t want it to just be a website – we envision a worldwide movement empowering others to become Voices of Hope and carry the message. We can cause a revolution.