A Change Of Season And Our Community’s Latest Suicide Bring Back The Terror of 2010

7 Oct

When a member of the Friends of Jeff Klein group contacted me on Monday morning to express her concern about how our family was taking the news of the latest suicide in our community, neither Carey nor I had heard a thing about it. We had somehow missed the local news stories over the entire previous week about the 21 year old Armonk man who went missing on Monday, September 29th after leaving his family’s home for work and not returning that evening. And then there was a vigil and the desperate attempts by his family, police and community members to find him. On Thursday afternoon, October 2nd, the police did find him in Glazier Preserve in Chappaqua, and everyone’s worst fears were realized.

Terror gripped me immediately when I searched for online news stories and found the headline, “Miles Applebaum’s Father Desperate To Find Missing Son” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/miles-applebaum-missing_n_5916684.html).

Oh, the desperation, the inability to catch your breath, the frantic attempts to call and text, and the utter helplessness of not knowing what to do, especially when you know that every second is precious and could make the difference between saving them or not. As I sat at my desk at work reading the articles, it was November 9th, 2010 all over again, and my breathing became labored.

According to the article, Ed Applebaum had the same set of facts about his son staring him in the face as I did. Like Jeff, Miles was severely depressed and had expressed suicidal ideation. When he went missing, I know well the desperation that must have set in.

According to the article written on Wednesday October 1st before the young man was found, “…his phone has not been turned on since Monday morning — something his dad said is ‘out of character’”.

Of course it was turned off. By all news accounts, Miles was part of a close-knit, loving family. Just as Jeff was. When suicidal young people with adoring families cross that final mental threshold and commit to going through with it, they know they must turn off all potential channels of communication. That’s because if they were to hear the voice of any loving family member or friend while on the way to ending their life, the plan to commit suicide would be derailed. While continuing to read the article, I impulsively stopped and called Jeff’s number, reliving the horror of my November 9th calls going straight to voicemail over and over again. I do not know why I chose to torture myself in that way.

The article shared the following quote: “He was suicidal and has been on and off various medications,” Edward Applebaum said.”

Oh, the meds. I have no idea if the meds had any role in what happened in this case, but that statement alone brought back all the guilt of having allowed Jeff’s psychiatrist to prescribe, prescribe and then prescribe again. It started with Celexa, and then he added Remeron, and to top it off, he advised a three drug cocktail to include Abillify as the third. Ultimately, the side effects were so brutal that we needed to check Jeff into a hospital to gradually wean him off this stuff over a week’s time.

And then the article’s crushing line from my perspective: “”He said, ‘Goodbye, I’m going to work, I love you,'” Edward Applebaum said of his last interaction with his son.”

A little before midnight on November 8th, 2010, after we had watched Monday Night Football together, I told Jeff to sleep well and that I loved him. He was sitting at his desk in his room and had just updated the NBA standings board that hung on his wall, based on the results of that night’s games. He told me loved me too, and that was it. Though I spoke with him a few times by phone during the first half of the next day, I never saw him again. Jeff did love me, just as Miles Applebaum loved his dad and the rest of his family. It remains baffling to me that love does not conquer all.

“I’m hopeful,” Edward Applebaum said. “It’s just that as the hours tick by, my optimism is waning.”

From the second I was notified at 4:05 p.m. on November 9th that Jeff had not shown up for his 3:30 behavioral therapy appointment, I was 90% sure it was over and he was gone. When I called his cell phone, and it was off, I knew it with certainty. Jeff didn’t just not show up for an appointment and turn his phone off for no reason. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Despite that, panic doesn’t allow you to quit and accept what you know in your heart of hearts to be true, and so I called and texted frantically. I asked Carey to drive to any place he could reasonably be—Club Fit and Taco Bell topped the list—to see if she could find him. I headed home. In our case, the period of terror and uncertainty from when I was notified that Jeff missed his appointment to when News 12 broke the news that “a young man” was found dead on the train tracks under the Bear Mountain Bridge was about three hours. For the Applebaum family, that terror and desperation lasted over three days. I truly cannot imagine going through that trauma for that long. My thoughts, prayers, heart and soul go out to them.

begging jeff to call me

So now, let me talk turkey with every one of you that has ever thought about, come close to, or attempted suicide. I would wager that you have at least one person—and likely many more–in your lives who would be absolutely devastated by losing you. The terror and fright that those people would feel when you first disappear are feelings that are not easily captured by words. It is torture. It is gasping for breath while suffocating. But it doesn’t stop there. When you’re gone and supposedly “at peace”, your survivors’ pain is enduring, and as I now know, it is everlasting. It is brutal. There is pain, anger, guilt, frustration and rage every day. The lives of the survivors are altered in a terrible way forever.

I understand your likely retort. You feel those same horrible things every day right now, and that’s why you think about suicide. Ok, but the bottom line is that every day you wake up presents an opportunity to try to make things a little better. And if you do have loved ones, you can lock arms with them and battle it out every day. Dig in and establish a foothold in the sand when the waves of sorrow wash over you. Hold your ground until they pass, and then put one foot in front of the other to take a step forward. The waves will come again, and you will need to dig in again. This is a long term war that you can win. I believe we are all capable of more than we think we are. There is more strength inside you than you realize.

For the last four years, you and I have shared something in common—we deal with pain every day. Prior to November 9th, 2010, I couldn’t have related to what you go through. But I can now, and you can’t tell me anymore that I don’t understand what it’s like to feel agony and anxiety. Ask Drew and Brett what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like in their father, and they’ll have more examples than you’ll care to hear. But I have them, I have Carey, as well as my friends and broader family, and I lean on them and love them all. And they have been there for me unconditionally, as your loved ones will be for you.

So now that we’re on the same playing field, I’m asking you to follow my lead and fight. I have learned that I can’t eliminate the pain, but I can beat it back to its own end of the field and I can manage it   I want you to fight with me, through your own struggles, forever and always.

Another precious young life has been lost in a neighboring town. We pray for Ed Applebaum and his family, and I hope to meet him someday and help him in any way that I can.

There is no way for me to avoid flashback terror and desperation when reading about a depressed young person who has vanished. Some will say that I am selfish for wanting Jeff to have stayed with us through his great pain, and for imploring all those who struggle to do the same. I don’t believe I am. I simply believe that life is precious and that banding together with your family and friends to fight through adversity is always the right thing to do, because troubled lives can, and often do, improve over time. And I just can’t stand the thought of any more parents experiencing those breathless moments when they realize their child is missing and may not be coming back.

–Rich Klein

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14 Responses to “A Change Of Season And Our Community’s Latest Suicide Bring Back The Terror of 2010”

  1. Marlene October 7, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    I love you Rich Klein. You are amazing. xo

  2. Stamatia Pappas October 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    Richard, can you contact me on my email?

  3. Melissa October 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    My heart goes put to both your family and the Applebaum’s. I can not imagine any other greater pain than the loss of a child to suicide. My cousin committed suicide in 2006 and our family never recovered. Despite vastly different circumstances, what troubles me so profoundly is the pile of pills so indiscriminately prescribed, especially to our youth. Psychologists have not caught up with the reality of this generation and feel that this seems to be easiest answer when they do not have the ability of capability to properly treat patients in this age range. As the mother of a 24 and 21 year old, neither of whom suffer from clinical depression, but have had some emotional issues that have been completely out of their control hit them, we talk. After decades of therapy myself and my refusal to take anti depressants (I have struggled with moments, issues, divorce, alcoholism from which I am in remission-but have never been diagnosed with depression) I make sure I keep my heart and mind open to them. It is not a guarantee that they will not face something the y feel they can not overcome, but just as you, two loving and adoring parents who had no warning, you remind us that this could happen to any of us. I applaud your courage in being able to celebrate your son’s life by continuing to remember him in your posts. That takes incredible strength. The parallel’s between your son and the Applebaum’s son shakes me to the bone. Here we “trust” those caring for our children and loved ones and they throw prescriptions at our children like they are Skittles despite clear, noted and blatant warnings about withdrawal and contraindications. Something must be done to prevent our children and loved ones from becoming victims of Psychiatric test subjects. Having endured what I have I am returning to school to earn my LCSW and hope to reach out to today’s youth. In the past 13 years of my sobriety I have done public speaking locally and across the country. I feel strongly that we are living in a highly over medicated society and such risks don’t necessarily have to be taken.Thoughts and prayers are with you as fight your way through each day….

  4. Nancy Weiss October 8, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    This moved me beyond words. Urgent and Inspiring.

  5. Nancy Weiss October 8, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Moved beyond words by this post. Urgent and inspiring message.

    • Melissa October 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

      Thank you…. I stand behind my words… controversial or not… There IS a way out of the depth of the darkness that can overwhelm us… it does NOT have to come in the form of a pill….. there is another way… another road… a road that may be harder than pills …but sometimes it DOES work better than a plethora of medications…… THIS is what I feel is truly pushing our society over the edge on risky meds that the Psychiatric community seem to find so beneficial…. Forgive me – although it may be right for SOME people… it is CERTAINLY NOT right for others….I lost my birth mother to the side effects of a med that would and did help her on “one front”, but obliterated one of the most important facets of her life…. that of being a mother who was happily reunited with a child she gave up for adoption …… everything was beautiful…. until……The meds….. I lost her to the meds 5 years ago… she is still here on earth and in my heart… but after our reunion 20 years ago the meds have once again ripped her away from me…..I can not change what they have done to her and I find myself grieving the loss ….. again and again….. She, I do not think , will ever be the same person or mother I had so desperately sought out, love and knew…. We loved from the moment we met… unconditionally… until the meds……

      • kleinsaucer October 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

        As far as I’m concerned, Melissa, there’s nothing controversial about your words. Jeff never had a suicidal thought in his life until he was carelessly given a prescription for Celexa. He took his first pill on August 31st, he came to us on September 8th to tell us he had begun to have “bad thoughts”, and on November 9th he was gone. The meds killed him. And you are right-they work for some but can be deadly for others. I’m so sorry about your mother

  6. Melissa October 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Mr. Klein,
    I am honored that you have read my words…. I HOPE- desperately- that in my work to attain my LCSW (although a minimal of initials for me to become an expert to speak upon what I see, feel and know in my heart mind and soul) that I may be able to shed some light on the issue of medicating and over medicating those who suffer so desperately from the depths of ANY form of depression. I was at the end of my own rope 13 years ago and have cheated death twice…. Once by my own hand with alcohol and one a lethal cocktail or prescription meds, haphazardly prescribed to a person who was never, ever diagnosed with and sort of clinical depression. I was diagnosed with a “situational mood disorder”, due to an environment I had lived with my entire life and a marriage that could never withstand the emotional pain I lived with.
    I KNEW that deep in my heart this WAS my last chance- my only open window to get the help I so desperately needed when every other door had closed…. Yes, it did take some meds to get me through the first few weeks… but I stopped almost immediately after rehab. I could not take them. There was something within me that was telling me that the all the doctor’s who had previously put me on one drug or another (Lexapro, Zoloft, Neurontin, …. etc…. before an overdose of Klonopin and alcohol nearly took my life. I signed myself in to rehab the next day. Despite the Klonpin and a BAC that did not register- I was beyond clinically “dead” on my alcohol level and fell in to a coma until the next morning I was given a gift- I had my last chance….
    I went through rehab for EVERYTHING all at once…. brutal as it was- there was a light at the end of a tunnel. I had never seen anything but darkness though that tunnel before. I knew that I had two young children at the time who needed their mother- but I had to stop and be selfish and focus on myself at that particular time so that I could be capable of being the mother these two beautiful children needed and deserved. I was all they had at that time and I was failing them.
    In my recovery and the road to remission I did go through a bevy of meds that I trusted the doctors said would “take this away”, “change that”….. During outpatient DBT I stopped and refused to take the toxic meds that the rehab had prescribed. Despite all the “professionals” who fought my decision, I continued with DBT therapy and individual therapy to maintain my keel as I began to navigate the unknown.
    IT WORKED!!!!!
    I found an inner strength I never in my most insane dreams though I had- WITHOUT all the meds. I felt what they were doing to me and knew something was not right. Had I not been on what I had been taking – my failed attempt to “simply not care” and putting myself in the mislabeled category of “suicidal” – might have been in my obituary.
    As time passes I see lawsuit after lawsuit, the disclaimer’s of the phrama companies speedily reading though all the risks while painting a pretty picture of life and it makes me physically ill to watch.
    I see and hear of family’s whose loved ones have taken their own lives, like my cousin, knowing they were put at risk by Psychologist’s and Psychiatrist’s who think medication are the easiest answer. I can not help but look through all of this and see so clearly that the vast majority of these medications (rushed to market) have done more damage that they were even worth the water that washed them down.
    I feel strongly that these medications must be more securely moderated and before ANYTHING is given to ANYONE, that EACH AND EVERY patient be completely vetted as well as the doctor prescribing the medication.
    Although I do not know all the specific details of the “cocktail ” your son was on – I DO firmly believe that such a dramatic transformation has EVERYTHING to do with an inappropriate cocktail of meds from which even weaning can be lethal- as you- heart-breakingly- became the victims of alongside your son.
    This MUST be stopped and more diligently regulated. The day that took you son may have happened- but I do NOT believe it had to be THAT day…… if ever. This MUST change, Your family has endured a trauma that many can never empathize with much less sympathize with.
    I came far too close to the edge and it terrifies me that this is an issue that we are forced to contend- unopposed-with “adult children” who are the ones making the decisions without knowing all the possible risks- I do not think this era of “our kids” are being fully informed and don’t understand what they are effectively signing up for. As parents of THIS generation I think we need to take a stand as to our involvement in our kids medical decisions( they NEVER STOP being our children 18, 21, 30…..) I will never stop being the mother of my two adults just as you will never stop being the parent of THREE boys…. Jeff will never NOT be YOUR child…
    To you and Carey I pray that you have the strength to push through every day… I know you will never get over, around or under his death…. you are only given the gift of the possibility of getting “through” each day that comes after the one before….. God bless and provide you the continued strength to face each day…..

    Melissa

  7. Natalie October 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Thank you… Really. That was so vulnerable, powerful and helpful. I wish this message, your message, really gets out and hits deep for those contemplating “the end”

    • kleinsaucer October 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      Thank you Natalie. Please share it through whatever channels you can so the word gets out more broadly.

    • Melissa October 12, 2014 at 10:35 am #

      I agree, wholeheartedly…. If my message can be of any help….PLEASE, by all means, share, share, share… I do public speaking and have studied the effect of these meds, researched, been through my own personal hell. I would be more than willing to speak, write, whatever is needed to shed more light on this.
      In addition to my cousin’s suicide, I also lost my birth-mother (in a living sense) to these “rush to market” meds for that quick fix…. She took Chantix- to quit smoking. She failed to inform the physicians or did not know the risks of major personality disorders and increased risk if the patient suffers or suffered any depressive disorder. My mother suffered depression all her life. After she took the Chantix her ENTIRE personality became altered- she withdrew and became a completely different person, day by agonizing day. There was nothing I could do to change it. It NEVER should have been prescribed for her. 15 years after our reunion I lost her all over again. We have not spoken in 4 years. I have essentially lost her to the effects of a drug, irresponsibly administered and taken by my mother. To me it is almost the equivalent of her death- I spent 28 years searching for her, wanting to meet or know something about her… medical history if nothing else- found her and now I have lost her. The next time I will see her WILL be her funeral. We are being robbed of those we love because of these meds and no one is being help accountable.

  8. wendy slater October 24, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    My friend just forwarded this to me as my sister’s 16 year old son recently committed suicide. My friend found it moving and thought it might help my sister. Unfortunately, at this point it wouldn’t help my sister because there were some very different preceding conditions. While I can sympathize with your feelings of having lost a family member to suicide (and I am sorry to you and your family), I want you to know that it could have been worse, if that is even at all possible. My sister’s son showed NO signs of depression until his suicide note and body were found. I only wish we had known that he was suffering so that he could have been able to get the help he needed, which might have been access to these drugs. Certainly your words on family love and support resonate with me and I thank you for sharing and trying to educate. I wish my nephew would have been able to read what you wrote about how suicide devastates families and perhaps the outcome could have been different. Sadly now, we do have that similarly crushing outcome in common. Again good luck and thanks for sharing. Just wanted to do the same.

    • kleinsaucer October 25, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      I am so very sorry, Wendy. You’re right, I can’t imagine a situation where there were no signs at all beforehand. Devastating. We are on a crusade for suicide prevention, so if you’d like to be with us, please feel free to join the Friends of Jeff Klein facebook group.

      • WENDY L LORING October 25, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

        I am not on Facebook but thanks for your response. Good luck!

        W

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