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The Nation: Mental health campaigner Jazz Thornton

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd Interviews mental health campaigner Jazz Thornton

Jazz Thornton is a suicide survivor who has gone on to form the mental health support group Voices of Hope.

Simon Shepherd asked her what she makes of the government’s new suicide prevention strategy, and if she thinks that it should be more targeted or not.

JAZZ THORNTON: I think it’s important that they’ve started with the whole society. Eventually it will need to get targeted, but I think that it’s important that we have an overview first and then we hone in on what the real issue is.

SIMON SHEPHERD: Right, so we’re not going to be leaving anyone behind here if it’s not targeted at the beginning?

I don’t believe so.

OK. So, you’re a suicide survivor. Why is it important to have people with lived experience on both the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission and also in the Suicide Prevention Office?

I think it’s really hard to restructure something or a system that you’ve never been in. I think lived experience is so important because a lot of, even the clinicians, don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side. So having that lived experience is so vital if we want to actually see change that is going to be beneficial for this nation.

Right, so from what you’ve seen so far, is there enough of that in these boards that are being set up, the commission that’s been set up?

Definitely not. I think that there’s sections of it that’s great, and people have been consulted. But I think looking at the board that’s been appointed, I think we’re still lacking lived experience.

So there is, as far as I can see, one member who has lived experience on that particular commission, and you want a lot more than that?

Definitely. The people that I deal with — I could not tell you how many times a week I call the police, how many times a week I’m on the phone to the crisis team, how many times we’ve been turned away saying, ‘Come back when you’ve tried to kill yourself.’ So I think that it takes someone who’s been in that position to know what is actually wrong and then how to fix it.

OK, all right. You’re heading back to the United Nations next week to launch a global mental health campaign. So what does that actually involve?

It’s the world’s first ever global mental health campaign. So, there’s 15 countries on it; it’s called Speak Your Mind. And it’s a nationally driven, globally-led campaign, and it’s all about — every 40 seconds someone takes their life around the world. So we’re encouraging people around the world to speak their mind for 40 seconds to their leaders about what they want to see change around the world.

Right, so, 40 seconds is like a social media campaign, is it an advertising campaign? How does it work?

Social media campaign as well as advertising campaign as well. There’s some pretty huge names that have come on board with it all around the world. And, um, yeah, so we’ll be launching it on the 23rd of—

So, when will we know who is actually involved along with you?

We can announce it, I believe, on the 23rd when it is launched.

And why you? How did you get involved in this?

I had a meeting with the CEO of United for Global Mental Health over in London, and she pitched the idea of this campaign. And immediately myself and my co-founder were, like, ‘This is something that we want to do.’ There’s always, I think, kind of country-led campaigns, but it’s so important to, look, that this is a worldwide issue; this isn’t a single country issue. So it’s important we address it together.

All right, so speaking of the country-led, sort of, review and the country-led focus, we’ve had a big week of mental health announcements, which is positive, you would say that?


But is there anything missing apart from the amount of lived experience on, say, the Mental Health Commission?

I think it’s just really going into the details of it. You know, we’re looking at things like the HIPs that are going to be put in all the GP clinics, the mental health professionals. And you look at it, it’s a fantastic idea, but there’s no money for infrastructure, so the clinics that don’t have rooms for people to actually go, one of the HIPS to go in.

When you say ‘HIPs’, what’s a HIP?

It’s the health professional, so it’s the people that the GPs will be walking them down to their office if they come in with a mental health issue. Which is a fantastic idea, but it’s looking at, ‘Actually, so how is this going to roll out?’ But I think it’s going to do well.

So the expenditure that’s been announced so far is not very much, is it?


No, OK. And so you’d like to see a lot more?


But you’re hopeful that there will be more?

I definitely— yeah, I’m very hopeful.

OK. But last time you were on this show you said our mental health system only works if you are rich or dying. Is this giving you any hope?

The early intervention stuff, yes. I think a lot has changed since I was last on this show, and I’m very thankful for that. I was thinking back to myself when I was in the psych ward, and what would my teenage self think of everything that was happening? And she’s so thankful. She’s so thankful that we are now looking at things like early intervention, because I had asked for help when I was 12-years-old, when I was first suicidal. If I had been offered it back then, I think it would have saved me years of heartache and psych wards and suicide attempts. So I’m hopeful.

All right, well, all the best of luck at the United Nations next week. Thanks you so much Jazz Thornton for coming on the show.

Thank you so much.

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