- Lily Cleal hanged herself after calling a friend to say she was 'feeling down'
- The 18-year-old said she 'needed a hug' before committing suicide last year
- She was concerned having same friends as ex-boyfriend would be difficult
- Coroner said he was at a 'complete loss' as to why teenager took her life
- Her parents are now calling for a greater awareness about teenage suicide
A talented A-level student killed herself in ‘an act of impulse’ after breaking up with her boyfriend and struggling to cope with them having the same circle of friends.
Lily Cleal, 18, had broken up amicably with fellow pupil Danny Capossela but felt it was not a ‘clean break’ as they had mutual friends and feared life would be difficult if either of them started dating someone else.
She took her own life in December last year at her family home in Leeds, West Yorkshire, after ringing a friend to say she was 'feeling down and needed a hug'.
Lily Cleal, 18, took her own life at her family home in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in December last year after calling a friend to say she was 'feeling down and needed a hug'
On December 6, while her parents were out, she called her friend in tears saying she was feeling low and just 20 minutes later rang 999 saying she was going to kill herself.
Paramedics rushed to her family home but found they were too late and she had hanged herself.
At an inquest, during which her former boyfriend sat side-by-side with Miss Cleal’s parents, the coroner said he was at a ‘complete loss’ as to why the talented and intelligent youngster had committed suicide.
The only child was an ‘independent and free-spirited’ girl who was due to take A-level exams in History, Psychology, Sociology and English literature at the 1,440 pupil Allerton Grange High School in Leeds where teachers described her as a ‘very bubbly happy young lady with a large group of friends’.
She was a keen sportswoman who played girls cricket for the school’s under 18s squad along with netball, hockey and swimming and she wrote and directed school productions.
Away from school the teenager had shifts as a waitress at Pizza Express and as a flyer girl with Letter Box Direct, in order to fund a forthcoming gap year trip to South America ahead of going to university.
At the hearing in Leeds, coroner David Hinchliffe said: ‘She was involved in many sports activities - a very sporty girl. She completed life-saving and first aid courses.
Lily Cleal took her own life in December last year on an 'act of impulse' after becoming concerned it would be difficult to have the same friends as her ex-boyfriend if either of them was to start dating another person
The teenager (pictured when she was younger with her father Quentin) was a popular schoolgirl with a keen interest in sports
‘She also enjoyed writing. She was involved with a number of dramatic productions as front of house, director and producer.
‘She was a very independent young lady who got part-time jobs for herself and knew her own mind. Her plan was to learn Spanish and she wanted to travel to South America.
‘She was already a well-travelled young lady having been to France, Spain, America and South Africa.’
The teenager first met Mr Capossela when they started school together at the age of 12 and after years of friendship they started dating.
The coroner said: ‘She had a wide circle of friends of both sexes. When she aged 12 she began a friendship with a boy called Danny at school.
‘When 16 it developed into what they say is an item. After two years the relationship ended but they still remained friends.
‘However because they were part of the same group of friends it could not be regarded as a clean break. It may be that both of them found it difficult if one of the other was seeing someone else.’
On the evening prior to her death, the teenager spent time shopping with her mother Kate in Leeds city centre.
Miss Cleal's parents, Kate and Quentin (pictured left with Lily), are now raising money for the charity PAPYRUS which campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with suicide. Right: Lily as a youngster with her father
On the day of her death, she had a lie-in as she wasn’t due in school until the afternoon and called her mother just after midday to talk about shopping and plans to put the Christmas decorations up.
However, shortly afterwards she called her friend crying before later ringing the emergency services. She left suicide notes for her parents and the paramedics.
The coroner added: ‘Lily still regarded Danny as a very good friend and although that might have been a distressing time for Lily, her mother never anticipated it would have any bearing on what happened.
‘Her parents still regard Danny as a very important person in their life and do not want to cause him any difficulty or animosity regarding what has happened.’
Recording a verdict of suicide Mr Hinchcliffe concluded: ‘Lily was a bit of a free spirit and it would appear that sometime during the course of Friday she had a probably got a little upset about something.
‘She might have done this somewhat impulsively never the less there was a degree of planning because of the notes. She had made it very clear to the paramedics what her intentions were.
‘The only comfort I can offer is that there is nothing suspicious - having said that I am at a complete loss has to why Lily took the action she did.
Recording a verdict of suicide, the coroner said: 'Lily was a bit of a free spirit and it would appear that she had a probably got a little upset about something'
The teenager (pictured a a child) was an 'independent and free-spirited' girl who was due to take A-level exams at Allerton Grange High School in Leeds
‘I do not think any words I can say to you that comfort you in the pain you must have felt at the time and continue to feel. Young people do not often know their own minds, particularly people younger than Lily. But Lily was 18 and knew her own mind.
‘I am very sorry you are in this situation. It may have been the headstrong impulsive aspect of her personality coming through.’
Mrs Cleal, 53, and her husband Quentin, are now raising money for the charity PAPYRUS which campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with those who take their own lives.
They have called for greater awareness about the ‘taboo’ of teenage suicide after figures showed up to 800 people aged under 24 take their own lives in England and Wales every year.
Up to 24,000 suicide attempts are made annually by 10-19 year olds - one every 20 minutes.
Mrs Cleal, an IT manager said: ‘What Lily did was a completely impulsive act. She was an out-going capable person with good upbringing and we just didn’t expect this.
‘One of our neighbours put it aptly “if Lily could do it, then it could happen to any family”.
‘But sadly like a lot of young people she took a temporary problem and gave a permanent solution to it.
‘This is the nature of her age group who often tend to see things as black and white when they haven’t got the maturity to deal with things troubling them. In a moment of darkness they act irrationally.
Lily¿s mother, Kate Cleal (pictured with her daughter), said: 'What Lily did was a completely impulsive act. She was an out-going capable person with good upbringing and we just didn¿t expect this'
Following Miss Cleal's death (pictured as a youngster), her parents have called for greater awareness about the 'taboo' of teenage suicide after figures showed up to 800 people aged under 24 take their own lives in England and Wales every year
‘Before Lily’s death I didn’t have any idea about the statistics surrounding suicide, in particular teenage suicide but they are shocking.
‘Around 30 years ago it was taboo to talk about teenage sex and because of that we had the highest pregnancy rate in Europe.
‘It is the same with teenage suicide. Being able to say you feel down or feeling like you might do something silly should not have the stigma surrounding it that it currently does.
‘When Lily died, I thought “what was she thinking? How could she leave me? We were so close.” And then my friends told me “she was not thinking, she was feeling”.
‘For Lily, all rational thought had gone. All it might have taken was to speak to someone about what was bothering her. Something needs to be done to remove the stigma that says it is odd just to say “I am feeling down”.
‘For teenagers, the pressure is always there in every generation to find a job, to make friends etc. - but this pressure has now increased due to social media.
On the evening prior to her death, the teenager spent time shopping with her mother Kate in Leeds city centre (pictured together above)
Miss Cleal (pictured left as a child and right as a teenager) was a keen sportswoman who played girls cricket for the school’s under 18s squad along with netball, hockey and swimming. She also wrote a school production
‘Once you would have an argument with your boyfriend on the phone in the hallway and then you would have to get back to chatting with your family where you could think things over. Now with Facebook, Whatsapp, snapchat and smart phones it is 24/7.
‘There is no let up and no natural break to think. Often people feel down and don’t vocalise that for fear of being marked as mentally ill. It means they can take themselves off in a moment of darkness and do what they do.’
Mr Cleal, a 52-year old NHS finance manager, added: ‘There is an issue of under recording suicides. Young people who patently take their own lives are often deemed not to be considered old enough or responsible enough so they are recorded as accidental death.
‘Before Lily had done what she had done, I was completely unaware of this - but the reality is it has never been a comfortable thing for humans to talk about. It seems people feel so black that they see no options.’
Click here to donate to Kate Cleal’s JustGiving page.
- For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details.