Mother seeks awareness & understanding of mental illness - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Mother seeks awareness & understanding of mental illness


It's a phone call no mother is ever prepared to handle. One week ago, 19-year-old Clifton Jenes Jr. jumped from a downtown Waterloo bridge into the chilly waters of the Cedar River. We first reported this as a custody dispute that turned into a chase, however, Jenes' mother told KWWL, it was never really about custody. Her son battles depression and bipolar disorder, and wanted to end his life.

"He said, he no longer wanted to live," Kim Sanders explained, recounting the phone call she received at 3:45 Wednesday afternoon. "I'm believing what he's saying, because you should always take a suicide attempt seriously. But I'm just kind of in a daze, like, is this going on right now?"

Jenes was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder at just nine years of age. In fact, what Clifton was attempting to do by throwing himself into the Cedar River is something with which his mother is all too familiar. She battles depression herself, as did her husband, Clifton Jenes Senior.

"His father committed suicide in October of 1993," she explained.

Even though almost everyone knows someone with a mental illness, many people are ashamed, or afraid, to admit they, themselves, need help.

"If they'll be treated differently, if they might lose their job. And so they often resist going and seeking help," noted Leslie Cohn, director of the Black Hawk County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

All too often, awareness doesn't happen until its too late. Clifton is one of the lucky ones -- his run-in with police ended without injury, and led to in-patient mental care. Now Sanders is determined to help others by sharing her family's story.

"My son said, when he went under the water, he prayed -- I'm sorry God, I don't want to go this way...and he has a second chance at life," she said. "But we must get together as a community and help. Not just my son, but others out there who are suffering from depression."

If the story resonates with you, NAMI offers free support groups and education in Iowa. The number is 319-235-5263.

You can also call the Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Center to find appropriate treatment at 319-234-2893.

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