A troubled teenager took his own life in an “impulsive act” following a series of problems with classroom behaviour.
Tristan Taylor, who was a pupil at Thamesview School, Thong Lane, Gravesend, died after a week in which he accumulated six punishments in four days.
An inquest this week heard how the 15-year-old, of Latona Drive, Gravesend, was diagnosed with ADHD: Inattention and Impulsivity at the age of nine.
But he had coped well at Higham Primary School and in his early years at Thamesview, where deputy head teacher Mr Christopher described him as “enthusiastic about school” and “an engaging young man to be around”.
But from December 2022 staff and his parents saw a noticeable change in his behaviour where he was receiving more behaviour points and detentions and being excluded from lessons for not paying attention, failing to complete work and answering back.
In the week before Christmas, his mum Gemma Cayley-Smith said he had received six detentions in five days while in the week before he died last May he had accumulated six in four.
In December self-harm marks were noticed on one of Tristan’s arms at school and a fellow pupil told a teacher he’d self-harmed before.
It was agreed he would start weekly check-in meetings with a trusted teacher but he declined dedicated counselling sessions.
It was not documented if any of these check-ins had taken place before his death.
But Mr Christopher told Coroner Roger Hatch there was no outward indication Tristan was unhappy.
He said: “He presented in school as a very happy, go-lucky young man.”
However, his dad Gavin Taylor felt he masked his true feelings, telling the court he had a suspicion that “when Tristan was down he might mask his true feelings with humour”.
The youngster had spoken to his dad about a self-harm app he used, documenting how many days a person had gone without self-harming and reported he was “clean” and had not been hurting himself.
However, the post-mortem examination found four cuts on his inner thighs.
In January his mother asked the school to put in some support from the Special Educational Needs team, as she felt he had not had any since being at the school, in a bid to cut down the number of class exclusions and detentions, and in April he was assigned a key worker.
On the Friday before he died, the court heard how Tristan had come home pleased to report he had no detention that day and asked to go out for the evening, but his mum refused because of his previous bad behaviour.
He had also been told he could not go to an upcoming party because of his string of detentions.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Tristan had been put on medication to help him concentrate at school but at a routine medication review three months before he died it was decided to trial him coming off this and using over-the-counter magnesium tablets instead.
In a report read out by Mr Hatch, it was confirmed Tristan’s parents said he seemed “quite happy since he stopped taking the medication”. This was due to be reviewed in six months’ time.
Mr Taylor said stopping the medication a month after the self-harm marks were first seen had actually had a positive impact on his son.
“He started spending more time with me and less time in his room and he went back to playing football,” he said.
But he also said Tristan could be very sensitive and would sometimes take things the wrong way.
“He was worried what people thought of him and felt people didn’t like him,” he said.
“He hid a lot of his problems with humour. He wanted to be liked.”
In the past 10 years, the family had suffered a number of bereavements which he said had hit Tristan hard, particularly that of their beloved family dog one Christmas Day.
“It was part of an incredibly charismatic, sensitive, funny young man who was loved by all...”
His dad said: “He never got over the loss. He hated Christmas after that because it reminded him of the loss every year.”
But both parents would always tell him how much he was loved by them and everyone around him.
In his last conversation with his son, he said he repeatedly told him he loved him and attempted to calm him down after “an argument” with his mum.
After being initially upset and wanting his dad to collect him from his mum’s house he calmed down and said he was happy to stay.
Mr Taylor told the court: “I told him not to do anything stupid and that was the last time I spoke with my son.”
While Miss Cayley-Smith said that evening was the last time she hugged Tristan after going to his room to tell him she had exchanged on the new house.
“He said he was pleased for me,” she said. “I said I was pleased for us.”
On the day he died, the teenager had been helping his mum move into her new house with her partner but ended up being dropped back home after saying he felt ill.
When she returned that evening with Tristan’s sister Sophie, nine, she initially thought he had snuck off to the party before finding him in his bedroom deceased.
Speaking after the verdict of suicide, Miss Cayley-Smith said she did not want her son to be defined by his diagnosis.
“I think we need to be careful with blaming his ADHD completely. He clearly had mental health issues which may or may not be as a result of his ADHD.
“Tristan had lost many people from the age of six, as well as going through his diagnosis, which took approximately three to four years.
“His final act we believe was impulsive, which is a trait of his ADHD, however, Tristan's ADHD didn’t define him as a person nor is it who he was.
“It was part of an incredibly charismatic, sensitive, funny young man who was loved by all.”