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How The Story Of A Young Girl's Death Is Saving Lives

WARNING: This story contains a discussion of suicide.

As Jazz Thornton has seen, suicide takes no uniform shape.

"Jess was an extremely energetic, sugar-loving, very outgoing, bubbly girl," Thornton told 10 daily, recalling the young girl she met five years ago this month.

"And she was also someone who was severely struggling."

Jess, a New Zealand high school student, first reached out to Thornton on Facebook in 2014 looking for support and guidance.

Jess reached out to Jazz in 2014 after hearing about her own struggle with suicide. Image: provided

"I had the honour of pretty much being her mentor. She would come to me when something was wrong and I'd be out there kind of pulling her off bridges," Thornton said.

"I remember some of the things that she would say about thinking she was a burden to everyone."

Just short of two years after the pair connected, Jess took her own life at age 17. Thornton was among the three people who received a goodbye message.

"I'm sorry Jazz for failing you and letting you down," the message read.

"I love you so much and am grateful for everything you did for me. I'm sorry. I love you. Goodbye."

Now Thornton -- a 23-year-old film-maker and co-founder of suicide support group Voices Of Hope -- is telling the story Jess can no longer share.

Jessica's Tree, a five-part series, takes viewers through Jess' final 24 hours, as told by her family and closest friends, in a bid to change the way people understand about suicide.

Jazz co-founded Voices Of Hope in 2014. Image: provided

To anyone on the outside, Jess was a regular teenager, Thornton said.

She went to school, took selfies with her friends, and had a notable sweet tooth.

"The issue was that she had told different people a small part of what was going on," she said.

"So no one had the full picture."

For Thornton, her story is part of a much larger narrative about how society struggles in connecting those suffering with those who can help -- often leaving people in a position without support until they're in "crisis mode".

"I think one of the biggest things is that a lot of people when they look at suicide and mental health, they kind of have this box around it," she said.

"Which is the person is upset all the time and they just have this idea of what depression looks like."

"But you start to realise that actually, depression looks like happy, bubbly, energentic, crazy Jess."

Image: provided

As well as her two-year friendship with Jess, Thornton was guided in the series' production by her own struggle with suicide. After experiencing sexual abuse as a child, she first tried to take her life aged just 12, beginning a battle which would last well into her teens.

According to Beyond Blue, about 200 Australians attempt suicide each day. It is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.

In NZ, approximately 500 people take their own lives every year.

READ MORE: R U OK? Here's What To Do If Someone Says 'No'

"I decided to tell Jess' story because I had seen a girl that had tried to jump off a bridge and news articles were covering it," Thornton said.

Thornton began to notice an unsettling attitude making its way to the forefront of comments on news articles -- made up of remarks including "she's just attention seeking" and "just jump".

"I remember looking at those and going if I was still suicidal and reading those comments, I'd never ask for help because I'm going to assume that's what everyone thinks," Thornton said.

With this in mind, when the series premiered, a team was employed specifically to filter out such comments on social media platforms.

Luckily, Thornton said they had almost nothing to do as an "incredible" and "overwhelming" response to the series came in.

In preparation for the series, Thornton studied the criticisms of series before her, including 13 Reasons Why. Image: provided

"We've had people saying that they were planning to take their life that day and then saw the series and chose to talk to someone. People saying 'thank you so much it saved my life'," she said.

READ MORE: 'All I Wanted Was To Live': Survivor Shares The Ripple Effects Of Suicide 

Jessica's Tree makes for sometimes confronting viewing -- a sister remembering her sibling, a father on the phone with police searching for his missing daughter -- but Thornton hopes it will open a dialogue about addressing suicide before it's too late.

"It's society's job to understand and to create a safe space," she said.

"It's not the system's job to change people, their job is to support people in crisis mode. It's everyone's job to make sure people are open enough to have those conversations in the first place."

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.