Thursday, July 10, 2008


Laura Gerstel

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

Published Date:
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 the hotline numbers at the links below:



For those who are unfamiliar with self-harm/injury, more information can be found in this post:



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Anonymous said...

This made me so sad when i read it in the news. Unlike other cases that make it into the media, Laura is more like me than the others. I hope she is in a better place now.

Unfortunately, with the way UK psychiatric care is so underfunded, i can only see cases like this being more common. I've attempted suicide 11 times - i don't neccessarily get to see a psychiatrist, have never been in a psych ward, and am usually sent home from hospital with ample opportunity to attempt again.
There's so little help available...

Medusa said...

Oh, Josie, I'm so sorry you've been unable to obtain help. That is just criminal.

Have you tried contacting these hotlines in the UK?


Youth Helpline:

0845 6347650

Anorexia and Bulimia Care:

01462 423351

b-eat - beat eating disorders


0845 6341414

0845 634 7650

British Nutrition Foundation:

020 7404 6504

Caraline: 01582 457474

The International Eating Disorders Centre:

01296 330557

The National Centre for Eating Disorders:

0845 838 20 40

National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence:

020 7067 5800

Northern Initiative on Women & Eating:

0191 261 7010


020 8554 9004

Threshold Women's Mental Health Infoline:

0808 808 6000

Young Minds:

0800 018 2138

Youth Helpline:

0845 6347650

The above are links from MrsMenopausal's blog, Weighing the Facts.

As well, here are some links in the UK:

BANA-Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association

Office: 519-969-2112



Eating Disorders Association: National charity (formed in 1989 by the amalgamation of three established eating disorders charities) providing information, help and support for people affected by eating disorders and, in particular, anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Details of local contacts in your area are freely available to callers ringing our national helpline. Telephone Helpline: 0845 634 1414 (Mon-Fri 08:30h - 20:30h. Sat. 13:00h - 16:30h) Youthline: 0845 634 7650 (Mon-Fri 16:00h - 18:30h. Sat. 13:00h - 16:30h). email

Eating Disorders Support:

National Centre for Eating Disorders:

Mental Health - UK:

Healing The Eating Habit:

Josie, perhaps one of the above agencies will be able to help you.

Please keep in touch and let me know how you're doing. I'm so upset and concerned that you've been unable to find the help you need and rightfully deserve.

MrsMenopausal said...

I don't know much about the medical system in the UK. Here, in the US, the limitations on treatment for eating disorders is being battled with some promising results so far. The coverage for treatment falls woefully shy of what is needed as it stands right now.

There are some options that may be open to you in seeking treatment. Several of the larger treatment centers offer grants and/or scholarships for those that cannot afford treatment on their own.

Please contact those in your area. If they do not offer a scholarship or something similar ask them to suggest someone you can contact to continue looking.

Some organizations that may be of help in guiding you:
F.R.E.E.D. Foundation:

Something Fishy has this information:
and they have this treatment finder: should be able to guide you and offers scholarships

I hope these are helpful.