LEE Wellock is the picture of a happy young man, captured here in his final year at Elton High School.

Then he lived a full, active life with a large group of close friends. Less than two years later, Lee started using cannabis.

And his parents Michael and Denise say the drug ultimately cost him his friends, his health and, finally, his life.

On July 15 last year, Lee's body was discovered hanging in woodland near to his home after nearly six years of battling against schizophrenia.

Now, his grieving mother and father have told how they believe cannabis led to the death of their 24-year-old son.

They are demanding that the government takes action to warn children of the dangers of this "risk-free" drug before another life is lost.

Mr and Mrs Wellock claim Lee's regular use of cannabis as a teenager triggered the onset of schizophrenia which drove him to commit suicide.

Mr Wellock said: "If it was not for Lee using cannabis in his late teens then he may not have developed schizophrenia and would not have then took his own life.

"We firmly believe cannabis was the catalyst in a chain of events that ended with Lee's death."

An inquest in Bury last Wednesday heard how Lee had suffered mental health problems since he was 18 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia four years later.

He lived with his parents in Newington Drive, Bury, but had moved into his own flat just days before he died.

A 14-year-old boy was playing in woodland at the rear of Douglas Avenue on July 15 when he discovered Lee hanged from a tree. A letter indicating his intention to take his own life was found in his jacket.

Coroner, Mr Barrie Williams, recorded a verdict of suicide whilst Lee was depressed.

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Wellock said: "There is medical evidence which supports our belief that there is a link between using cannabis and mental health problems. People say cannabis is harmless but we now know differently."

The Wellocks' beliefs are supported by reports from Rethink, the UK's largest severe mental illness charity.

Calling for a Commons inquiry into cannabis use and its link with mental illness back in January last year, Rethink's chief executive, Mr Cliff Prior said: "Cannabis is not risk free.

"We have known for years that using cannabis makes the symptoms of schizophrenia far worse in people who already have the illness.

"There is a rapidly growing body of evidence showing that cannabis can trigger schizophrenia in people already at risk and probably even in people who should only be low risk."

Mrs Wellock is calling on the government to highlight the dangers of cannabis and for youngsters to recognise the drug can be harmful.

She said: "Children who smoke cannabis are playing Russian Roulette with their lives, particularly if they are at risk from suffering mental ill health. The government should be making everyone aware that cannabis is harmful."