A YOUNG doctor at a North Yorkshire hospital killed himself after battling with depression, an inquest heard.

Robert James Harris was found hanged in his residence at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, aged 24, on July 11 this year.

North Yorkshire East coroner Michael Oakley heard that Dr Harris, who was described as "an exemplary professional", had been taking the anti-depressant Prozac for some months before his death.

Although Dr Harris had been seeing a local GP about his depression for much of the early part of this year, very few of his colleagues at the Friarage were aware of his difficulties, the inquest, in Easingwold, heard.

Among those who was aware of the situation was Dr Karla Marlow, a close friend, who had tried to talk him through his worries, and believed he was making progress.

Dr Marlow described her friend as "a very intelligent, witty, generous and caring man...but also a very private man".

Northallerton GP Dr Peter Ramsden said he had seen Dr Harris on several occasions, and had recommended that he seek psychiatric help or primary mental health care, as well as continuing the course of Prozac. Dr Harris had replied that he did not see a need for psychiatric treatment.

The inquest also heard that Dr Harris' family were aware he was suffering from "low feeling", and that they had tried to help him. He was due to visit them at their home in Exmouth, in Devon, at around the time of his death.

Dr Harris was on leave when he died, but was staying at his home in the doctors' residence.

On July 11, after repeated attempts to contact him had failed, staff called in a joiner, who got into his locked room through a bathroom window.

There, he came across the body, and was soon joined by Dr Harris' friend and colleague, Dr Nick Palmerley, who could see that Dr Harris had been dead for some time.

Mr Oakley said: "Given the circumstances in which the body was discovered, and the fact that he was clearly suffering from depression, I will record that Dr Harris killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed."

Updated: 08:25 Tuesday, October 16, 2001