'People would say 'go kill yourself'' – Young Kiwi cyberbullying survivor speaks out

A young Kiwi woman has revealed how cyberbullying drove her to attempt suicide – and how she fought back.

"We portray one thing on social media, but you never know what's going on behind the scenes," Jazz Thornton explained on tonight's episode of TVNZ's mental health series, The Inside Word.

Jazz first experienced cyberbullying at the age of 12.

Online, she was subjected to a barrage of abusive messages from schoolmates. Many of them wrote anonymous comments about her.

"People would say, 'Go kill yourself; it would be better if you were dead; everyone hates you'... All of those horrible things.

"It makes you feel like no matter what you do, people are going to hate you anyway."

The abuse continued for four years. At the age of 16, Jazz reached breaking point.

"There was one page that was really bad, and tipped me over. It was called, 'Jazz Thornton Is An Attention-Seeking Slut'.

"I thought that there was no point in me living anymore, because everyone hated me; I would never be loved; I was a burden to everyone. And it got too much."

She tried to commit suicide, and woke up in hospital. Despite surviving, Jazz says she believed her life would never get better.

In total, she has attempted suicide 14 times.

Last month, Jazz made national headlines when she posted a letter she wrote to a police officer who once prevented her from taking her life.

However, the biggest turning point came when Jazz's mentor helped her realise that she was simply "surviving" rather than "fighting" her destructive thoughts.

Jazz worked hard to change her "core beliefs". She surrounded herself with positive people, and made lifestyle changes to ensure that she could access help when she needed it.

Now 23, she co-leads Voices of Hope, a movement to promote positive conversations about mental health in New Zealand.

"I can’t believe the transformation. I used to wake up every day wishing I hadn’t. And now I wake up every day so excited."

Watch the full episode of The Inside Word on cyberbullying here: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/the-inside-word/episodes/s2018-e4

Where can I get support and help?

If you want to talk to someone about any challenges in your life, free call or text 1737 anytime to speak to a trained counsellor.

Lifeline - 0800 543 354

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email: talk@youthline.co.nz

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Healthline - 0800 611 116

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 or www.depression.org.nz

The Lowdown: A website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. www.thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

SPARX.org.nz: Online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed

OUTLine NZ - 0800 688 5463 for support related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Wellingtonians feeling threatened or uncomfortable on night out can get help from bartender using code word

Eliminating sexual violence in Wellington is something the city's council is discussing adding to its long-term plan – marking a bold commitment to an ambitious goal.

But the capital's already breaking ground with an independent initiative to get bar goers out of uncomfortable or unsafe circumstances - and it starts with ordering an 'angel shot.'

It may sound like an exotic alcoholic beverage, but it's actually a discreet call of help made to bar staff that's also being promoted in areas in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.

Now Wellington woman and creator of Sophies Angels, Sophie Denman, is taking the global initiative one step further with the launch of Angel Cards in just over a week in the capital.

"The Angel Cards is if it is that emergency situation, you would help your customer into the Sophies Angels vehicle and then hand the driver the card.

"Doesn’t matter where this person is going; they will get a free ride all the way there and we will make sure they get into the house safely," she told 1 NEWS.

Seven bars, six of which come under Hospo Gurus management, have signed up to Sophies Angel Shots and Angels cards initiative.

Bartenders are taught to evaluate the situation and provide help, or call the police if the codeword "angel shot" is said.

It comes after Ms Denman launched her female taxi driver service last year, which takes passengers all days of the week from older people to school children.

It's for everyone to use, but has a predominantly women clientele.

Ms Denman is passionate about helping people who end up in tricky situations and felt inspired to start the company after hearing comments from passengers relieved to get a female Uber driver when she worked for the company.

It's something she's also experienced herself.

"It was a sexual assault which when I started this company it was really a lot about that and being able to get girls out of that situation as quickly as possible," she said.

"The amount of time girls need a comfortable ride most or anyone needs a comfortable ride most is those late nights in town where suddenly Uber is at three times surcharge and to go up the road’s going to cost you $40."

Hospo Gurus operations manager Steven Mawhinney said preventing sexual harassment and abuse in their bars is a big focus.

"To be able to spot the signs of people that are you know.. affected both ways as a potential victim or a potential assailant," he said.

Mr Mawhinney said while the issue has always been around, people are more likely to call out the behaviour now and many bar owners are paying more attention to it.

"The old adage of the guys being guys is dying thankfully, but unfortunately it's going to take a while to get rid of," he said.

Mr Mawhinney said Sophies Angels was a good service to support and he hoped she would be able to find funding to help it grow.

Hospitality New Zealand has also increased its focus on sexual health prevention, securing funding for some of its members' staff to be put through training from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.

While the timeline for training is yet to be decided, it will be carried out in main centres across the country at a cost of around $20,000, with an aim to extend the initiative in the future.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network general manager Fiona McNamara said people serving alcohol at venues have a key role in stepping up to act against harassment and sexual abuse.

"Often in a venue they will be the only people who are sober, they also have more authority than other people around and so they can actually step in and do something which might be really hard for people’s friends or for another customer to do if they see something going wrong," she said.

She said everyone should play a role though and if patrons see something happening that looks a bit dodgy, it most likely is and requires intervention.

Ms McNamara said while some bars are leading the way in this area, other need to realise that this is an issue and their responsibility to educate themselves and take action.

"We know about bars that are doing things like having body cameras on their security staff so they can keep an eye on what's going on and use that as a deterrent for bad behaviour as well," she said.

Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons is also supportive of Sophies Angels latest service, which is in line with her council swearing-in ambition to end sexual violence in the capital.

Ms Fitzsimons has helped Ms Denman to organise talks around the service receiving council funding.

Ms Denman has already had contact from bars in the wider Wellington region wanting to get involved, which she said is a great outcome but one that she will be taking slowly as she doesn’t want her company to grow too quickly while the service is still being fine-tuned.

It's her dream to eventually have drivers at the ready around the country.

More information about Sophies Angels services and how to donate to her Angel Cards mission can be found here.

The code-word is used in bars overseas and now it's launching here in a bid to reduce sexual violence. Source: 1 NEWS


All Blacks lend a hand as road safety educators try to change attitudes of young Kiwis learning to drive

Road safety educators are on a drive to slow the rising road toll by curbing bad habits in our newest drivers.

The RYDA program is sweeping through schools teaching students how to deal with unsafe influences.

The program's brought in some big guns to have some tough conversations, including All Blacks captain Kieran Read.

It's a timely lesson, with the road toll set to reach its highest level in more than a decade.

With road safety week ending today, more than 380 people have died on our roads in the last 12 months. 

It's been a disappointing end to road safety week with the death of a pedestrian in Christchurch last night. Source: 1 NEWS