She was young, beautiful, bright...and tortured by bulimia, cutting, and depression.
On November 25, 2007, after leaving a poignant farewell message at 2.46 a.m. on Facebook, 20-year-old Laura Gerstel was found by her friends, hanging by a red ribbon from a banister in her flat in a residence in Fulford Road, York.
Laura's last heartbreaking message on Facebook was "Laura is thinking 'if only...'"
From the Yorkshire Post:
"Tragic student's website farewell
04 July 2008
By Paul Jeeves
A STUDENT with a history of eating disorder and self-harm was found hanged by her housemates less than two hours after leaving a farewell message on the Facebook website.
An inquest held in York yesterday heard that "bright and bubbly" Laura Gerstel, 20, had spent a weekend Christmas shopping with her mother and appeared happy.
But hours later her flatmates found her body hanging from a banister – shortly after she had updated her status on the social networking website to read "Laura is thinking 'if only...'"
She had left a note referring to her believing that she was overweight and "not wishing to live this way".
In a statement Ms Gerstel's father, Antony, said she had begun self-harming when 12 and was suffering from the eating disorder bulimia at 16.
She had briefly been referred to a psychiatric hospital after her parents had found cuts on her wrists and legs.
Mr Gerstel's statement added: "She would not let us help her. But when she was at university she sent us happy texts and sounded fine."
The third year biochemistry student at York University was from North Berwick in Scotland and her mother had visited her before leaving on the evening of November 25 last year.
House tenant Emma Wellard had been asleep at 4am the following day when she was woken by the screams of another housemate.
Her statement said: "I came out of my room and saw Laura suspended from a red ribbon tied to the bannister. My housemate phoned for an ambulance.
"I had known her for two years. She suffered from bulimia, took anti-depressants and did cut herself."
Miss Gerstel's poignant final Facebook message was posted at 2.46am.
Coroner Donald Coverdale rejected a verdict of suicide as Miss Gerstel had drunk the equivalent of two-and-a-half pints the previous evening. Mr Coverdale noted that Mr Gerstel had mentioned in his statement that his daughter "became compulsive" when she drank.
Returning an open verdict, the coroner said: "This is a very sad story. Laura had suffered from a number of medical and psychiatric difficulties, and unfortunately had harmed herself in the past by cutting herself.
"I am not aware of any previous attempts to take her own life. The note she left referring to her thoughts and feelings that she was overweight connects to her psychiatric difficulties.
"The level of alcohol she had consumed may well have impacted on her judgement. Because of the uncertainty about her motives and the state of her mind due to the alcohol, I am going to record an open verdict. I'm afraid we shall never know what was in Laura's mind."
None of Miss Gerstel's family members were at the inquest.
Miss Gerstel's close friend and fellow York University student, Robin Corey, said: "Everyone who knew her loved her. She was one of the few people who it was always a genuine pleasure to be around and talk to, always so bright and bubbly and full of fun and laughter.
"I think I speak for my circle of friends when I say having Laura on a night out made the whole night more enjoyable.
"It's always such a shame when someone dies so young, but for Laura she was always so full of life that it seems all the more sad. She was genuinely one of my favourite people."
A York University spokesman said Miss Gerstel's death had come as a "shock to everyone".
He added: "She was an enthusiastic and bright student, popular with staff and her fellow students, and she is missed greatly."
Laura's death is an unspeakable tragedy. If only....
Please...if you are suffering from bulimia, self-harm/injury, anorexia, depression, or suicidal thoughts...call the hotline numbers at the links below:
EATING DISORDERS HOTLINES, TREATMENT & REFERRAL INFORMATION
SUICIDE/SELF-HARM HOTLINES & LINKS
For those who are unfamiliar with self-harm/injury, more information can be found in this post: