The family of TV star and singer Lil’ Chris have spoken of his struggle with fame and determination to overcome depression after a coroner ruled he took his own life.
The 24-year-old pop star, real name Chris Hardman, died on March 23 last year after being found hanging. He had struggled with depression.
Lil’ Chris (Anthony Devlin/PA)
An inquest into his death in Bury St Edmunds heard the 24-year-old star – who rose to fame at the age of 15 in the 2006 Channel 4 series Rock School – had been in contact with mental health services throughout his career.
He had told friends that the pressures of fame had exacerbated feelings of paranoia and anxiety.
Returning his conclusion, Suffolk coroner Peter Dean said: “Clearly he was a very talented young man who found fame at an early age.
“Sadly that fame also brought with it difficulties and problems, but he had shown a desire to relaunch that career once more.”
His sister Hannah Hardman, who attended the hearing with their parents Ian and Karen Hardman, said afterwards that he had been determined to overcome his difficulties and highlight prevalence of mental illness among young men.
Lil Chris (Yui Mok/PA)
She added: “He had an amazing experience as a singer and celebrity and it is difficult to regret a moment of that.
“Nobody who knew him would have a bad word to say – he was the funniest, most lovely practical joker you could ever meet.
“But at the same time it was very difficult for him and he spoke very openly about his depression.
“The one thing we would like to take away from this tragedy is to get people speaking more openly about mental illness.
“Unfortunately it is something that society cannot yet cure but by talking about it we can hopefully help people in a similar situation.
“I know that is what he wanted.”
Chris found fame in Rock School after Kiss frontman Gene Simmons made him the lead singer of a student band.
Gene Simmons of Kiss (Chris Pizzello/AP)
He was later offered a solo deal and went on to have a top five hit with Checkin’ It Out in 2006.
At the inquest, his mother recalled the moment he was selected for the TV series, saying he was hugely excited.
Mrs Hardman added: “He had never mentioned wanting to be a singer, he just said he wanted to be famous.
“When he passed the auditions, it was clear he really wanted to do it.”
Lil’ Chris (Suffolk Constabulary/PA)
But she said he broke up with his girlfriend and started experiencing difficulties soon after the release of his first single.
The inquest heard that Chris had spent the night before his death ‘chilling’ with friends at his flat in Union Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk.
The following day he attempted to contact his GP and mental health workers about concerns with his medication, but there was no indication he posed an immediate risk to himself.
At 11.48am his flatmate AJ Sutton returned to find him hanging. He raised the alarm and tried to resuscitate his friend but nothing could be done.
Lil’ Chris with Richard Branson in 2007 (Joel Ryan/PA)
AJ said in a statement that Chris was admitted to the Priory Hospital in November 2014 after an incident in London.
The pair had been friends since 2009 and Chris had regularly spoken of relaunching his musical career. In 2012 he had starred in the West End production Loserville: The Musical.
“For the first six months, he had a great time but then he started experiencing difficulties again and returned to Lowestoft,” he added.
Lil’ Chris (Joel Ryan/PA)
Mental health worker Simon Millard said: “He shared with me some quite personal experiences about the difficulties that came with fame.
“He was an extremely likeable young man and seemed determined to make a success of himself despite his problems.”
Mr Dean recorded a conclusion that Chris took his own life.