Gosport student Sean Mark at Bay House School died by misadventure, coroner rules - as family praise Willow Group for learning 'hard' lessons over mental health treatment
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Sean Mark, 17, was found to have died from hanging in his bedroom in Gosport on the morning of December 4, 2021.
At an inquest into his death held at Portsmouth Coroners' Court, coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp ruled his death as one of 'misadventure' based on a lack evidence that the teenager had intended to take his own life.
The Bay House School pupil, who lived in the Clayhall Road area of the borough, had spent the days leading up to his death excitedly discussing Christmas presents he had bought for his friends, the inquest heard.
Speaking at the hearing, Sean's dad Kevin said his 'cheeky and bubbly' son had 'so much to live for', while his mum said an absence of a note or a last message was more indicative of misadventure given the family's close relationship.
Kevin, a civil servant and former Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, said: 'He had talked about lucid dreaming. He was always looking for some form of euphoria. I feel he was looking for a higher high. We don't believe he would take his own life.'
The teenager, who enjoyed trading on the stock market and had played video games professionally, had suffered with bouts of feeling 'disgusted' with himself, according to messages read out at the inquest, as he was troubled by a series of issues in his academic and personal life.
The 17-year-old, who had recently told his parents that he believed he was either gay or bisexual, was anxious about a former partner sharing their private messages, and he was concerned that he had undiagnosed ADHD, which he suspected would explain his difficulties at college.
Having missed more than 100 college assignments and with an attendance of 35 per cent, the student had sought a face-to-face GP appointment at a Willow Group surgery.
But five online and telephone consultations with different doctors across four months led him to feeling ‘palmed off’, according to his parents.
They have now praised staff from the medical group for meeting with the family and learning ‘hard’ lessons from Sean’s efforts to secure help.
Susan, who served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy for 21 years and now teaches at HMS Collingwood, said: ‘We have been working with the Willow Group and they have been very open with us.
‘The most important thing is that if there is the opportunity to learn lessons, and you do...that should be praised.
‘There’s no point in getting angry, there’s no point in blame – (we want) a similar situation aborted.’
Speaking at the inquest, Dr Robin Harlow, clinical director at the Willow Group, said staff had made a series of changes based on meetings with the family.
Dr Harlow said: 'We have looked at our process to ensure that safety net is there, to offer the right support. Anyone under the age of 18, we will offer them a face-to-face meeting as a first point (of support). Anything that comes in is graded as urgent is not downgraded until after a proper assessment.’
Friends and family used the inquest to pay tribute to Sean, a 'kind and caring' young man whose commitment to helping others went ‘above and beyond’, according to Susan.
The teenager had previously helped an online friend based in Poland with her own mental health issues, searching for treatment and support groups for her more than 1,000 miles away.
Friend Madison Joseph said: 'He was one of the kindest people you could ever meet.’
His Polish friend has since contacted the family to say that Sean's kindness 'saved her life', according to his mum.
She said: 'That goes above and beyond - that shows the measure of him as a person.'
The family hope open discussions about mental health support will be part of Sean’s ‘legacy’.
His mum added: ‘I loved him very much – having Sean was the best decision I made in my life.’