Entries for the Great East swim are open at: Greatswim.org/East

A Suffolk Dad, whose 15-year-old daughter died by suicide, is swimming in the Great East Swim to raise awareness of suicide in teenagers.

Rob Jenkins, from Sudbury, Suffolk, will don his wetsuit and take the plunge in his first ever open water swimming challenge in memory of his first born Claire.

Claire was just over a week away from her sweet 16th birthday when she lost the will and strength to live.

She took her own life ending her brave battle with mental illness.

Claire is much loved, by her parents, siblings, family and friends. She was a ballerina, flautist and a valued member of the school, local and Girl Guiding community.

She helped the younger children both in Guiding and as an assistant teacher in ballet.

The Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with an eating disorder was providing care and treatment.

She had been fighting her illness for about a year and more noticeably losing weight prior to her diagnosis.

She seemed to be making progress over the Christmas and New Year under the professional care she was receiving including psychiatric help for depression and her eating disorder.

Her suicide was a huge shock to her whole family as she had seemed to be improving.

Four years on from her death Rob decided to direct his grief to try to achieve something positive, to raise money for PAPYRUS, a charity dedicated to prevent suicide in young people.

In a bid to raise awareness and to encourage others to talk about suicide, Robert is taking on a huge challenge of a one mile open water swim at the Great East Swim on Saturday 17 June.

Rob, 48, said “Claire had been planning and seemed to be looking forward to her Sweet 16th party. It makes us reflect on the frame of mind she was in when she no longer had the strength to live and ended her life.

“We found out that she had been self-harming and had an eating disorder some 4 months before she died and sought the help she needed.

“Claire was under the care of a psychiatrist, attending an appointment that week, the trigger and reasons as to why she took her life will never be answered. It is very 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.

“The nature of depression in children is different; Claire was still sociable but kept her feelings hidden.

“That is why we encourage parents and friends to talk about mental illness and depression with their children. Do not be afraid to ask if they have suicidal thoughts and a plan on how to kill them self.

“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 family do you appreciate how prevalent it is.

“We hope that in sharing our story about Claire and in doing the Great East Swim this year for a charity connected to suicide prevention it will encourage others to talk and keep children safe.”

Rob will join over 2,000 swimmers for Suffolk's biggest open water swimming event, the Great East Swim.

The event takes place at Alton Water and features a range of swimming distances, from 250 metres for kids and beginners, to a one mile and 10k marathon swim.

The inspiration to enter the Great East Swim came from his pride at watching his youngest daughter Bethan last year as she completed her first open water event swimming ½ mile in the Great East Swim as part of the Suffolk outreach program.

Rob, a scientist, added “The Great East Swim will be a big challenge for me, which will be more meaningful in swimming in Claire's memory for PAPYRUS.

This charity is very close to our hearts focusing on mental health and suicide prevention in young people.

“There is so much silence and shame around suicide and we personally felt that close friends and even family did not want to talk about Claire's death for fear of upsetting us.

 “We want to talk about Claire and celebrate her short life, so that it may help others to open up to those close to you.”

To support Rob's fundraising in Claire's memory, visit his fundraising page.

 Entries for the Great East swim are open at: Greatswim.org/East