From Suicidal to Joyful: Jazz Thornton’s 10 Practical Steps Towards Mental Health Recovery - Hope 103.2

From Suicidal to Joyful: Jazz Thornton’s 10 Practical Steps Towards Mental Health Recovery

In telling the story of her recovery from severe mental illness, Jazz Thornton shares some of the steps she took towards healing and good mental health.

By Clare BruceThursday 10 Oct 2019Health and WellbeingReading Time: 3 minutes

Jazz Thornton is the founder of a New Zealand mental health charity Voices of Hope, and she has a remarkable story of recovery from nine years of depression and suicide attempts. Jazz spoke to Hope 103.2 about some of the turning points in her recovery, and the practical steps she took towards a new, mentally well life.

Those steps included:

  1. Making a list of her destructive core beliefs (such as, “I am unlovable”), and next to each, writing down positive reminders and truths that contradicted those beliefs.
    “Every time my mind [told me], ‘Jazz, you’re unlovable. Jazz, you’re a burden,’ I would pull out this list, and I would have solid evidence in front of me that my internal reality wasn’t matching the external truth.”
  1. Keeping handy a list of positive steps to take when feeling suicidal, such as, “Call this person”, “Listen to this music”, “Read this book”.
    A simple list in your wallet or phone case can help give you something to hang onto or refer to, when your thinking is scattered.
  1. On one of her healthier days as she was beginning to improve, Jazz wrote an affirming, hope-filled letter to her “suicidal self” – which she would then open up and read on her worst days.
    The letter, which Jazz reads out in her film Dear Suicidal Me, contained reminders like:
    • “You know how to fight this, you’ve done it before and you can do it again”.
    • “Remember you are not alone.”
    • “There are people who love you. They would rather have you messy and alive than not here at all.”
    • “Listen to inspirational music. Don’t listen to sad music, you know it makes you feel worse.”
    • “You are so close to being free, don’t give up.”
    • “You have a future.”  
  1. Becoming actively engaged in therapy, “doing her homework”, and following her counsellor’s advice.
    When going to her counselling appointments, Jazz reminded herself that psychologists study for years to know how to help people, and that they “probably knew what they were talking about!” This helped her to trust in the process, rather than giving up.
  1. Seperating herself from her depression and suicidal thoughts; realising that they were not her identity.
    “It’s really hard when you’re going in to therapy with the perception that this is your identity, therefore, it will never change. I learnt how to separate myself from it, so that when I went in to see a therapist, I went in with the intention of, ‘Okay, if this is just something I’m struggling with, then maybe I can work through it.’”
  1. Learning to “barricade” her self-hatred and negative, suicidal thoughts.
    This is a strategy Jazz learnt from a Christian book called Journey written by her church pastor Libby Huirua.
  1. Reading good books.
    For Jazz, reading books that gave her positive strategies for recovery, and putting those strategies into practice, was a step in her recovery. Others may find other media helpful, such as positive, uplifting podcasts or magazines, or listening to good teachers.
  1. Beginning to dream again.
    Thinking and journaling about things she could do in her future helped Jazz to have things to look forward to, and to remember what she was fighting for.
  1. Becoming involved in a church community, where she found friends, parent-figures and mentors who could encourage her.
    If you are not a person of faith, look for a support group or a community group where you can build new relationships. Easing yourself back into social interaction is a powerful key to improving mental health. 
  1. Being aware of her limits, and having healthy routines and self-care practices in place, to maintain good mental health.
    This is something Jazz maintains to this day, to make sure she doesn’t fall back into old habits.

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