Jazz Thornton

Young New Zealander of the Year

2021

University of Canterbury

Young New Zealander of the Year

Te Mātātahi o te Tau

University of Canterbury

After abuse, depression, hospital stays and multiple suicide attempts characterised her teenage years, Jazz Thornton has truly turned her life around to become a mental health activist who has written two books and produced multiple films. Shortly after her final suicide attempt, when Jazz says she decided to ‘stop surviving and start fighting′, she enrolled in South Seas Film and Television School to learn how to tell the stories of people like her. After only a few months, she produced the short film Dear Suicidal Me, which features real people reading their suicide notes followed by the reasons they feel lucky to be alive. The film had more than 80 million views in the first 48 hours after it was posted online.

In 2014, Jazz and Genevieve Mora created Voices of Hope, a suicide prevention organisation that creates media content such as videos, podcasts, and blogs to provide support for those struggling with mental illness. Jazz has also released Jessica′s Tree, a web series that follows the final 24 hours of the life of her friend Jessica, who died of suicide in 2015. In 2020, New Zealand director Leanne Pooley released The Girl on the Bridge, a documentary about the production of Jessica′s Tree. Most recently, Jazz received the Commonwealth Points of Light award from Queen Elizabeth II for her mental health advocacy work. She also volunteers at adolescent psychiatric wards and gives talks in schools on the importance of mental health.