'It is just so surreal' - Kiwi mental health advocates speak about meeting Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle talked with the founders of mental health foundation Voices of Hope yesterday about the importance of speaking out about mental illness.

Jazz Thornton and Gen Mora founded Voices of Hope in January 2017 and got an opportunity to speak to the Duke and Duchess at Maranui Cafe in Wellington.

Jazz Thornton and Gen Mora. Source: 1 NEWS

Thornton said their reactions were priceless when they found out they were getting the chance to meet them.

“I said: It’s the Royals, they want us to meet the Royals! I was freaking out, we didn’t think it would ever be a possibility.

“We woke up this morning and we had people messaging us from Scotland, Switzerland, USA and Australia, it is just so surreal."

She said they were such a genuine couple and was surprised at how much they actually engaged in conversation.

“It’s just nice to know that people of such prominence are being so willing to engage in the conversation, means that there is a very strong message that mental health doesn’t discriminate."

Thorton said the main topic of conversation was about people being too afraid to share their stories.

"Prince Harry said: Why do you think that is, we’ve got this in the UK is it the same in New Zealand?"

She said he really engaged with her story.

"He was asking about my first suicide attempt and why I felt like I couldn't ask for help earlier."

Prince Harry started speaking of his mother, Thornton said, and he said it took him years to speak about it because he was brought up in an environment where mental health was never discussed.

Then they started talking about the attention-seeking stigma that is in New Zealand.

Meghan really responded to that, she said, it really shocked her.

"Why do people do that, did that really happen to you?" the Duchess said.

A turning point for Thornton was when she talked to her mentor after she had attempted to take her life.

“She asked me why are you crying? I turned to her and said, I’m just so tired of fighting.  She looked at me and said 'Jazz, what do you think fighting is because I think you’re only surviving'.”

She said it is when you learn how to fight that you see change happen.

"It's not about battling your past, it's about fighting for your future."

Jazz Thornton speaks to students about mental health. Source: 1 NEWS

Prince Harry told the founders of Voices of Hope he wished there was more things for people even like himself when he was going through tough times.

Thornton said they've received so many emails from people, especially parents thanking them for saving their child's life.

"We've chosen the platform social media to combat all the negative stuff that's on there."

Thorton's next project is directing a new web series on suicide that’s coming out in March.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email
What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Safe to talk National Sexual Harm Helpline - 0800 044 334,
Victim Support National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 842 846,
Rape Crisis National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 883300
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.