Mum of Durham teen Lee Whaley hopes documentary will prevent future suicides; Lynn Whaley has spoken out for the first time after the death of son Lee in 2014 - and encouraged depressed or suicidal young people to seek help.
Byline: Michael Brown
A teenager's mum has for the first time spoken of how her son's death devastated her family - and how she hopes others "don't have to suffer alone."
Lynn Whaley's son Lee was just 18 when he was found hanged last year in woods behind the Graham Sports Centre in Maiden Castle, County Durham.
Now, along with son Michael, 18, niece Caitlin White, 17, and nephew Connor White, 17, she has teamed up with the charity Fixers to launch a documentary encouraging young people suffering from depression or contemplating suicide to seek help.
"I don't think teenagers realise just how important it is to talk," said Lynn, from Coxhoe. "He was out there in the woods alone and heart-broken.
"The thought that he felt unable to talk to us will haunt me forever."
Lee went missing on May 10, after falling out with his then girlfriend, and the family launched a fruitless search of the local area. A day later police discovered his body.
"It's devastating for us to know that he was just yards from where we were searching," said Lynn, 43. "My son Paul kept saying, 'If only I'd crossed that fence. I could have been with him and he wouldn't have been alone.' But he was already gone.
"I just wish he'd answered the phone so I could have talked him through it. If there was more awareness about the benefits of talking through emotions then he might have picked up the phone rather than taking his own life."
Lynn said her son became had become depressed in the year before he died.
"I noticed a gradual deterioration in his usual, upbeat self," she said. "I'd ask him what was wrong, but he wouldn't confide in me so we tried to get him help.
"Lee was autistic and had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, so he found his emotions hard to deal with."
Lee, who had attempted suicide and self-harmed previously, went to see a psychologist.
"For a while it seemed to work for him," Lynn said. "He'd go for a walk instead of dwelling on it or throw himself into his studies.
"He was studying Mechanics at Durham New College and he was incredibly talented with his hands.
"He loved fixing things around the house for me. He went through a phase of fixing things with gaffa tape.
"Now when I look at a role of tape I laugh because it reminds me of him."
Lynn and her family - husband Paul, 47, sons Michael 18, Paul, 23, and Glenn, 22, and daughter Ashley, 25 - have placed a memorial bench in their garden to remember Lee, while the ommunity raised more than [pounds sterling]1,000 to place one in Coxhoe Park where he used to spend time with friends.
"If one of us is having a bad day, we'll sit on Lee's bench so it tells the rest of the family we're in pain and we'll talk it through, rather than going it alone," Lynn said.
"We've always been close and Lee used to call us his 'security blanket' because we were always there for him.
"I hope another family doesn't have to go through what we have and I can only implore teenagers to speak to someone, even if it's a total stranger.
"There's always someone there who can help. They don't need to suffer alone."
For confidential support on suicide matters call the Samaritans on 08547 90 90 90.