A Great Cornard man whose daughter committed suicide hopes his effort at the Great East Swim this weekend will help raise the profile of youth depression and mental illness.
Rob Jenkins, of Freestone Way, takes on his first open water swimming challenge on Saturday, in memory of his daughter Claire, who took her life four years ago, a week before her 16th birthday, after battling mental illness.
A popular figure at her school and within the local community, Claire had been receiving treatment and psychiatric help after she was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder.
Mr Jenkins, 48, said her suicide was a huge shock to her family and friends, as she seemed to be improving.
He is now raising money and awareness for Papyrus, a charity dedicated to preventing suicide in young people.
“We found out she had been self-harming and had an eating disorder some four months before she died and sought the help she needed,” he said.
“The reasons as to why she took her life will never be answered. It is hard to come to terms with not knowing why.
“Had Claire spoken to us about her thoughts and feelings, we may have been able to do more. That is why we encourage parents and friends to talk about mental illness and depression with their children.
“There is still a huge taboo around suicide and people shy away from talking about it. It is only after the horror of it happening to your own family do you appreciate how prevalent it is.”
Mr Jenkins said there is “so much silence and shame around suicide”, but he and his family wanted to share their story and celebrate Claire’s short life, to encourage others to open up.
He added that support for his effort has been “absolutely fantastic”, having so far raised £1,744.51, andhis training had been going well.
He said he was apprehensive ahead of the swim, but was nevertheless determined to reach the finish.
To donate to Mr Jenkins’ cause, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/SwimmingforPapyrus.