The family and friends of talented pole dancing champion Jess Norris are still hurting.

Grieving for a life lost, too young, to depression.

“Jess grew up with my daughter Sophie and they used to play together. The family just can’t get over what’s happened. She was so beautiful and worked so hard - always laughing and always smiling.”

These are the words of Hazel Darlington, a cousin to Jess' heartbroken mum.

MORE: Bolton pole dancing champion Jess Norris died by suicide after depression battle

“I’ve worked in a pharmacy since I was 17 and since lockdown started, I have seen more and more people coming in with depression-related problems," added the 53-year-old.

The Bolton News: TRIBUTE: Hazel Darlington, left, with Jess Norris

"These are such difficult times for so many people, and I just want to encourage people to pick up the phone and get help if they need it."

British pole dancing champion Jess died last year, aged 27, after a long battle with depression and struggling through lockdown.

MORE: Tributes to UK pole dancing champion Jess Leanne Norris

Nine months on Hazel, from Westhoughton, is fundraising for the Samaritans.

She added: “I’ve never been more passionate about anything in my entire life.

Jess’ death came only four months after Hazel’s husband died.

When Hazel saw the Samaritans' 10,000 steps a day in March challenge, she knew she had to join in. She is asking people to donate loose change or the price of a takeaway coffee to help the cause.

Joined by her French Bulldog Holly, she has enjoyed the challenge, making up the steps on her days off work.

Her Facebook fundraiser has so far raised £510 from 33 donors - smashing Hazel’s original target of £100.

The Bolton News: Hazel clocking up the miles with her poochHazel clocking up the miles with her pooch

“If I could encourage even just one person to speak up, that would mean a lot to me," she said. "I don’t want any more families to go through what we went through.

“Pick up the phone or go online and chat, help is always available if you find yourself in crisis. You are never alone. It costs just £5 to fund what could potentially be a lifesaving phone call.”

Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 on their freephone number 116 123, and also have an instant messaging service for those who are uncomfortable speaking on the phone, with someone in the UK contacting the charity every seven seconds.