Jazz Thornton and the doctor who helped her through her mental health battle tell their story

Warning: The following story contains discussion of suicide.

Jazz Thornton has opened up about her long battle with mental illness that led her to her GP in an attempt to end her life.

Now, the pair are friends and work together to tell their story from both sides.

"I'd been struggling for a really long time and had just kind of got to the point where I was like, 'I can't do this anymore, I don't want to do this anymore'," Thornton told The Project. 

"I ended up making an appointment to go see Dr Steph but I didn't want to tell her what I was planning on doing, I just wanted to try and get what I needed to finish the job."

But GP Steph Taylor saw straight through Thornton's act.

"Jazz was just sitting in my office unfortunately like a lot of patients we see. Wasn't making any eye contact, didn't want to say a lot, trying to question her really wasn't getting anywhere," Dr Taylor says.

Thornton's 15-minute doctor consultation turned into 90 minutes, as Dr Taylor did everything she could to help her.

Instead of giving Thornton the prescriptions she was after, Dr Taylor sent her to the hospital. But it was what she said that day that really shaped Thorton's future.

"She kept saying, 'There’s hope for your future, you don't have to live like this, this doesn't define you', and it was so weird for me to hear that because medical professionals have never said that to me," Thornton says.

"I really didn't think she was listening. That’s the one really amazing thing that I've learnt through our relationship now is she heard everything I said," Dr Taylor says.

It was a while until Dr Taylor found out though.

Dr Taylor said Jazz told her she was filming for a documentary and meeting Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

"She thought I had gone off the rails again," Thornton says.

"I was writing in my notes like, 'Is she manic', or, 'What’s going on here'," Dr Taylor says. "And then I was at home watching television and there she was having coffee literally with Prince Harry and Meghan and representing Voices of Hope and I was like, 'OMG she’s actually achieved what she’s set out to do, that’s so awesome'."

Soon, Thornton and Dr Taylor's doctor-patient relationship became a collegial one. 

"She said, 'I'd really like to tell our story and get it from the doctor’s perspective and the patients’ perspective'… and then she phoned me up not long after saying, 'I'm going to Bali to talk to a group of mental health advocates, would you like to come with me', so of course, I said yes," Dr Taylor says.

And before long, that work relationship became a friendship.

"We have a different relationship, I'm no longer her GP, she’s no longer my patient," Dr Taylor says. "She's kind of become like part of our family, I've got three daughters who look up to her like the big sister and she spends a lot of time at our house."

"Her family became like family to me. They invited me to go on their family holiday with them, they were teaching me to surf and to ski, and it's so weird and it’s so different… it gave me family," Thornton says.

Where to find help and support: 

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

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

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584

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