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This Is Local London
13 May 2016
Josie Griffiths, reporter
A “loving, caring and popular” teenage boy from Bexleyheath committed suicide just one week after being prescribed antidepressants, an inquest heard.
Reece Burrowes, 17, was found hanged in Danson Park by two fishermen in the evening of December 6 last year – with two empty litre bottles of rum on the ground near him, an inquest at Croydon Coroner’s court heard yesterday (May 11).
The Wilmington Grammar School pupil had been seeking treatment for depression from doctors at Westwood Surgery in Welling, and was found to have leg wounds “consistent with deliberate self-harm” in his post-mortem examination.
American Footballer Reece, who played for Kent Exiles in Chislehurst, was an only child but had a large and loving family including a foster brother, the inquest was told.
The former Hurstmere School pupil kept his struggles secret and Reece’s death shocked the community – with between 400 and 500 people attending his funeral, according to step dad Simon Bankes.
On November 23, the Manchester United fan told Dr Edwin Lim he had “fleeting thoughts about suicide” but had no plans to end his life.
Dr Lim added: “On the surface he seemed very happy. He couldn’t pinpoint anything that was making him unhappy.”
In a follow-up appointment on November 30, Reece told Dr Jhumur Moir he was not considering suicide, but was still thinking about hurting himself.
“Those thoughts were still there, but not suicide”, Dr Moir told the coroner.
She prescribed him Sertraline 50mg, an antidepressant which can take two to three weeks to have positive effects on the patient’s mood.
Mr Bankes, the partner of Reece’s mum Tracey, said: “That final week – he was his normal, smiley, happy self.
“That morning we had a normal conversation about what to buy him for Christmas. His mum said we would be back to cook him dinner. He loved his roast dinners.
“He was a lovely boy and was loved by all the family, and by lots of friends as well. He was loving and caring and was a very popular person.
“He knew he was loved by everybody. Everyone said they were lucky to meet him.”
Reece, who had worked at River Island in Bluewater and at a Tesco supermarket, was a hard-working young man who got AAB in his AS Levels and was looking forward to going to university.
Senior coroner Selena Lynch recorded a verdict of suicide, adding: “It looks as though Reece had been having problems for a little while.
“There were signs of recent self-harm but there were also signs of something older. I think he was struggling and he was unable and unwilling to speak to anyone about it.
“What worries and upsets me somewhat is that anybody should feel any sense of failure over him not wanting to talk to them. Reece’s situation was very complicated.”
Coroner addresses the ‘stigma’ around depression
The coroner also issued an important message about teen suicide. She said: “It’s a very topical problem because at last people are starting to recognise that there is a problem of some kind.
“If only there was no shame in saying ‘I feel really terrible and the need to relieve something in cutting myself’.
“Reece committed suicide. We need to use this word ‘suicide’. We need to recognise this problem and we need to see it in our statistics at the end of the year.
“He hanged himself in Danson Park sometime in the evening of December 6 whilst suffering from depression.
“One hopes that services for young people will be dramatically improved at some point in the future. We hope that Reece’s death will be part of that.”
Ms Lynch added: “I think forgiveness is the key. To forgive yourselves and forgive others and to do what Reece would ask you to do.
“To enjoy your lives and make the most of them in a way that Reece couldn’t.”
Reece’s family pay tribute
Paying tribute to the teenager, who was affectionately known as Afro Boy or Mixed Reece to friends, his family said: “Reece was 17 and in the prime of his life.