We meet the talented teenager, Jazz Thornton, co-founder of website Voices of Hope.

The co-founder of website Voices of Hope, Jazz is using her difficult past as ammunition for a thriving future. With friend Genevieve Mora, who is studying acting in Los Angeles, Jazz founded the site earlier this year as a place to provide support and hope to teens struggling with mental illness or losing hope.

The site features videos of singers, actors and sports stars sharing their stories to illustrate that everyone can go through hard times. "Some, everyday struggles. Some, depression. Others, loss of someone close, or suicidal thoughts. The list is endless," says the 19-year-old. "We figured if teens knew these stories, and knew how they got out and continued on to live their dreams, it could inspire them not to give up. Because if these people could do it, despite their circumstances, why can't they?"

Each is photographed wearing the site's signature candy lips. "To us, they represent 'hundreds and thousands of reasons to speak hope', and 'speaking life and colour into full situations'," explains Jazz, who is a Youth finalist at this year's Attitude Awards.

"[It feels] incredible. It is such an honour to be nominated. But honestly, I just hope that it can spark something in others. If I can do it, they can too."

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ASPIRATIONS IN LIFE
"I want to live a life that helps change lives. Earlier in the year, I went on The Revolution Tour, an anti-bullying campaign where teams go into schools throughout New Zealand bringing a message of anti-bullying and hope. This is the kind of thing I want to spend the rest of my life doing, but worldwide. Touring with a message and seeing teens find the hope needed to change their lives."

DON'T GIVE UP
"I think one of the biggest issues facing this generation is vision. As kids, we dream about becoming doctors, or singers, but then somewhere along the line, we lose sight of our dreams and settle for far less. Reality and the challenges life throws at us begin to blind us and we begin to listen to the lies of the world that say, 'You can't do it.' I have known so many people who have been so driven and talented but then became so overcome with a situation that life threw at them and didn't know how to handle it. This led to them losing hope and giving up."

MY ADVICE FOR THOSE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION
So often, people answer this question with "stay strong," or, "hold onto hope." But here is what I have learned. Nothing will change unless you choose to make a change. My mentor, Esther Elliott, has been someone who has not only empathised with me but has also challenged me with questions like, "Okay, Jazz, but now what are you going to do about it?" You can talk about wanting to get out of your storm, but unless you choose to take the first step, nothing will change. For each of us that step is different. It could be, seeing a counsellor, seeing a doctor, talking to someone. But I urge you to not be someone who dwells in your situation. Yeah, it's hard. Trust me, I know! But what is harder is staying in that place longer than you need to. I would encourage you to find someone like Esther who will push you to actively step out of your storm.


• Read more about Jazz's website at voicesofhope.co.nz.


- VIVA