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Genevieve Mora and Jazz Thornton. Photo / Jonny Scott.

Discover The Organisation On A Mission To Change The Dialogue Around Suicide

Dilmah and Viva join change-makers throughout New Zealand for a cup of tea to discuss how they are creating positive change

Genevieve Mora and Jazz Thornton are shifting the dialogue around suicide.

Since 2014 the mental illness survivors have made it their mission to use their past experiences and passion for creating content to ignite conversations around a previously taboo subject.

“Both Jazz and I have fought extremely tough battles with mental illness and once well, we decided we wanted to use our stories to give hope to those who are in the place we once were,” says Gen.

“Voices of Hope is a platform that we wish had existed when we were unwell. Fighting mental illness is such a lonely journey and to know that there are others out there who have fought the same fight and are now free is incredibly inspiring.”

The joint venture was formed after the duo was introduced through a mutual friend. Gen was living in Los Angeles at the time, and connected with Jazz over Facebook after reading her status about a friend she’d lost to suicide.

“I reached out to offer my condolences and we agreed that something needed to be done,” Gen says.

What started as an idea quickly took shape, with Gen and Jazz using social media to launch Voices Of Hope as passionate 18-year-olds.

Fast forward three years (and a brief hiatus) later, the pair re-launched their organisation in 2017 with a more defined vision of what they hoped to achieve.

Since then, countless videos and blog posts have been shared by Voices Of Hope. Each post aims to tackle mental illness issues and provide hope for those struggling by promoting mental wellbeing, empowerment and recovery.

But despite the amount of content Voices Of Hope churns out from week to week, the passion project is still very much a side hustle for Genevieve, who works at a local primary school, and Jazz, as an award-winning documentary director.

For an organisation that was originally started by two teenagers, Voices Of Hope has earned recognition on a national and international scale.

A Canadian mother reached out to Genevieve and Jazz to thank them for saving her 15-year-old daughter’s life.

Her email reads:  
“My name is Amy and I am a mother from Canada. It has taken me a few weeks to gather myself to send this email as I haven’t found the words to express to you.

On March 1, my 15-year-old daughter walked into my room crying, suicide note in hand and told me that she needed help. As I held her, she told me there was a rope hanging in her wardrobe ready for her, and sure enough, there was.

Through her tears she told me that after she set up the rope and wrote the letter she went on Facebook to message her best friend goodbye. As she logged into her laptop, at the very top of her Facebook newsfeed was a video one of her friends had shared.

That video was one of your videos. She watched it and suddenly realised she couldn't take her life. She came to my room and told me everything; about the bullying, about how depressed she was; but after watching the video she felt like there was hope for her. 

Now, my daughter is still alive and in therapy because of you. Thank you for saving her life and for giving her hope. I cannot begin to express to you how grateful I am. Keep doing what you do, you are incredible.”

Earlier this year, Jazz received funding from NZ On Air to create the mini-series Jessica’s Tree, which tells the inside story of this young woman’s suicide.

“Jessica was a girl I met after the initial launch of Voices of Hope in 2014,” Jazz says. “She reached out to me online after seeing my story. I ended up in close contact with her and her family, and was highly involved in the crisis moments in her life. One day she hoped to travel around schools and share her story of hope and recovery. That didn’t happen. Jess’ story depicts our heart-breaking statistics, but more importantly shows what we can do to help be part of the change.”

More recently, Genevieve and Jazz have been engaging with #SpeakYourMind, the world’s first global mental health campaign, by creating a series of 40-second clips fronted by notable Kiwis whose lives have been touched by mental health issues or suicide.

“The campaign gives everyone a chance to speak their mind and share a message to their leaders of what they want to see changed in mental health. Having notable individuals allowed us to reach more people and make a bigger noise,” Jazz says.  
As 2020 looms, the pair says they’re excited to spread their message on a much larger scale. The eventual goal is for both women to invest more time in Voices Of Hope, and continue to produce content more regularly throughout the year.

“We want to continue to provide hope through sharing people's lived experience not only in New Zealand, but overseas too,” Jazz says. “We hope to look at more collaboration opportunities with other organisations and businesses, and get into more schools to share our message.”

Genevieve and Jazz invite others to submit their own stories of hope on their website. They also encourage followers to share Voices Of Hope content to their own Facebook timelines or Instagram stories to spread their message even further.

“Something as simple as sharing our content can make such a huge difference. We all go through tricky times and by sharing our videos or posts so many more people can be uplifted,” Gen says.

 

For information or offer donations, grants or scholarships, visit Thevoicesofhope.org, or follow them on Facebook @TheVoicesOfHope or Instagram @VoicesOfHope.

This is part of a special Viva and Dilmah editorial series. To see more, go to Viva.co.nz/Dilmah

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