LUGOFF, S.C. (WIS) - A Midlands mother has a mission to break the stigma often associated with mental illness.
After losing her 16-year-old daughter, an Elgin woman made it her goal to save others before it’s too late.
She’s now spoken to over a thousand midlands teens.
Jenny Morales is working to get youth and teens to speak out because she feels mental health is not being talked about enough.
That’s ever since she lost her daughter, Tiera, in 2012.
As a BlueCross BlueShield employee, Jenny is embracing the company’s motto to “live fearless,” a platform she uses to honor her daughter, and support those in crisis.
“Tiera was my princess angel dancing girl,” Morales said. “[She] was 16 years old in high school, and was always smiling singing, making jokes.”
From the outside, Morales says you’d never know Tiera was suffering.
“Most people who suffer from a mental health condition, especially depression, cover it up well and my daughter was a master at smiling when she needed to smile, and laughing and giving the impression that nothing was bothering her,” Morales said. “My daughter had a group of friends that she had been friends with since third grade, and she did confide in them and she did tell them about how she felt and what her thoughts were and they spoke with her, but were not able to come to me. Their comments to me were we talked her out of it, or we thought we had talked her out of it. You know they were young they didn’t know.”
But then, a single call shattered Jenny’s world.
“I went to work on a Saturday, I worked part-time on the weekend and we, my daughter and I, kind of had words the night before, and we hadn’t really said much. I went to work the next morning, just figuring that we would talk things out when I got home, or she would have a letter my daughter was always good about writing notes or writing letters for me and I went to work and that was the last time I saw her,” Morales said. “My son phoned me at work, to give me the news. He was 14 at the time. I came home and I just couldn’t believe it was true. I just couldn’t believe it was true. That I was never going to see her again. And I just felt horrible that my sons had to be here, and be the ones to call me and call family.”
Years later, she uses her pain to advocate the importance of communication amongst teens.
“Talk for Tiera is my mission. That is my mission to be a voice for those that lost their voice. My daughter lost her voice. And I have spoken with a thousand kids and I’m not finished I will speak to 10,000 more until that message gets across.” Morales said.
“I just wish that we had talked more, I wish that she could have been able to communicate with me more with how she felt. I just miss her every day,” Morales said.
Jenny has also started a scholarship in Tiera's name.
The Talk for Tiera Memorial Scholarship is offered to a Lugoff Elgin High School student, which is where Tiera attended.
Jenny asks students to write an essay to speak on how they'd be a voice for a friend or a classmate they knew was troubled or needed help, even at the expense of their friendship.
The overall goal is to advocate the importance of communication between teens, and ultimately being a voice.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.