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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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Suicide Prevention Efforts Surging In The U.S. : The George Washington Bridge To Erect A Barrier To Stop Jumpers

12 Aug

classicmichaelsfromjulie

Once it was announced that the Golden Gate Bridge would have safety nets built to foil would-be suicide jumpers, there was no doubt that the floodgates would immediately open and every bridge and transportation authority in the country would eventually succumb to the pressure to follow suit.

It has taken only a month for the latest major bridge to join the suicide prevention effort in the most serious and effective way. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced on July 30th that it would build a nine foot fence across both sides of the George Washington Bridge that would make it virtually impossible for someone to jump from the span. The move comes in response to the fact that the number of suicides from the GWB is on pace to set a record this year, with 13 having taken place through the third week of July.

The project will cost between $37 and $47 million, as compared to $76 million for the Golden Gate Bridge safety net project. It is incomprehensible to a layman like me, though, that it will reportedly take until 2022 to complete the fence construction. The nets at the Golden Gate Bridge will only take 4 years to complete, but this fence will take twice as long? A lot of lives risk being lost in New Jersey during that proposed 8 year period. But we need to be thankful for the fact that another major bridge authority has seen the light and has taken action to start the process. The evidence In favor of these types of actions is indisputable. According to an article on this landmark decision in http://www.northjersey.com:

“…research published over the last 20 years from bridges around the world suggests that nets and fences reduce jumping suicides significantly, often down to zero. A review of 19 research papers by the Harvard School of Public Health found that ‘barriers have been largely effective in stopping or dramatically reducing suicide deaths.’”

I was taken aback recently when someone I know well asked me, “Why do you care, Rich? None of this can bring Jeff back.”

I care because it’s bad enough that my son took his own life, but it’s even more devastatingly painful to know that it could easily have been prevented forever if the trend of building bridge barriers had begun years ago.

I care because I want everything possible done to ensure that someday, no other families will have to endure the pain and mental anguish that we have. I miss Jeff so much, and I don’t want other parents to have to feel that sense of irretrievable loss.

And I care because every life is precious, and my research on this topic has convinced me that the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from anxiety and depression can be saved with a combination of love, mentoring and physical suicide barriers. Innocent lives are being lost every day in atrocious wars being waged all over the world by people and governments who are either unable or unwilling to stop them. We certainly can’t let lives be lost to a plague like suicide that is entirely preventable–at least those from bridge jumping– and is now clearly on the way to eventually being eradicated.

We are painfully reminded that suicides continue to occur in other ways.  On August 9th, just three days ago, one of Jeff’s KDR brothers became the latest to demonstrate that.  And now Robin Williams.  The pain of seeing more precious lives lost is excruciating, but we simply cannot give up the fight against this epidemic.  It is difficult to stay resolute in the face of these horrific setbacks, but we must.  There is no alternative.  Attend to those closest to you and make sure you know how they are feeling at all times.  Be attentive and love hard.

Though I’m late in getting involved in this effort, I will be stepping up my own activity in this area in the coming months (to be discussed in a blog post soon). And I will need your help.

For now, though, I just wanted you to know that the momentum in suicide prevention is unstoppable. Two of the highest profile bridges in our nation have taken the bold step of agreeing to erect barriers. It is no longer a question of whether all others will jump on the bandwagon. It is just a question of when.

Yes, it is too late for Jeff, and that rips my heart out. But I still care, and passionately so. I need you to care too, because if a young man like Jeff could succumb, then others who you’d never assume to be at risk, might be. With every day that passes, though, we get closer to being able to stop them.

–Rich Klein

An Historic Day For Suicide Prevention: Plan Approved To Build Safety Nets At The Golden Gate Bridge

27 Jun

Golden Gate Bridge

The images play in high definition in my mind every day. It is November 9th, 2010, and Jeff gets in his car to drive twenty minutes to the Bear Mountain Bridge, where he will take one final deep breath before jumping. He drives across to the Rockland County side of the bridge and parks his car on the right shoulder. He stays in the car for a minute to pump himself up to do this, because he knows full well that if he hesitates for even a second, the opportunity will be lost, and he will not go through with it. Though It was a temporary wave of hopelessness that got him to this point on this day, he wasn’t going to turn back now. He places his cell phone on top of the final notes resting on the passenger’s seat, does his cross, and bolts from the car. He starts to jog toward the edge of the bridge, preparing to leap when he gets there.

But when Jeff gets within six feet of the edge, he looks over the rail and stops in his tracks. Holy shit, what the hell is that? Jeff is stunned to see a stainless steel net hanging about twenty feet below and extending outward twenty feet from the side of the bridge. He can’t possibly jump far enough outward to get past the net, which extends the entire length of the bridge. Now what? He sprints across to the other side. Same thing. Another net. “I better get the hell out of here before the cops pick me up”, Jeff says to himself, and he sprints back to his car and hightails it back to Chappaqua. As he drives home, he starts to feel relief. “Shit, that was close. Watching the Knicks game with Dad tonight isn’t looking so bad after all”, he thinks to himself.

This is a fantasy, but that is only because dozens of people who killed themselves by jumping from the Bear Mountain Bridge over the past decade– the most recent of which was an 81 year old man this past Father’s Day– have not convinced the authorities that barriers are necessary to stop the madness and save precious lives. Instead, they prefer useless hotline phones that people are supposed to pick up and make a call instead of jumping.

“Come on, Rich”, you say, “if he was hell bent on killing himself, he would have just driven another half hour over to the Tappan Zee Bridge and done it there.” But that’s precisely the point. Like the vast majority of suicide jumpers, Jeff was NOT hell bent on killing himself. What he did that day was an impulsive act driven by a temporary feeling of deep despair. Had a barrier like that been in place, Jeff’s plan would have been foiled, the feeling would have passed, and his flirtation with suicide would have been over for good. But don’t take my word for it. Instead listen to what Eve Meyer, head of San Francisco Suicide Prevention and a 25 year advocate for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, has to say about this:

“Scientific evidence is overwhelming that having a deterrent reduces suicide because it is so often an impulse feeling for many people. It’s been proven that if you stop someone, most won’t try again…This is about taking away the ability to act on that suicidal impulse.” (“Will San Francisco break the fall of the Golden Gate Bridge Jumpers”, Holly Bailey, Yahoo News, June 26, 2014)

Today, in an historic breakthrough for the cause of suicide prevention worldwide, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District’s board of directors unanimously approved a plan calling for a stainless steel net—exactly the one I described in my fantasy above—to be built on either side of what is arguably the most breathtakingly beautiful bridge in the world.

After years of opposition from those worried more about aesthetics than about saving lives, and from those who argued that those who wanted to kill themselves would simply find another way, the Board could no longer ignore the irrefutable facts. Those facts were articulated clearly in Stephanie Smith’s June 27th article on CNN.com entitled “’A view or a life?’: Golden Gate Bridge may get suicide barrier”. First she quotes Denis Mulligan, CEO and general manager of the transportation district, who said:

“Where nets have been erected as suicide barriers, they’ve proven to be 100% effective thus far. Suicidal people have stopped jumping at those locations.”

Those locations include the Clifton Suspension Bridge in England and the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, where, after barriers were installed, suicide rates went down dramatically.

But here is the clincher and the reason I know with certainty that Jeff would be alive today if the Bear Mountain Bridge had a similar barrier on November 9th, 2010. Smith writes:

“Very rarely do people who are stopped from jumping go on to commit suicide, according to a study published in 1978 by Richard Seiden, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. More than 90% of would-be jumpers who were stopped, according to the oft-cited study, were still alive decades later.”

Dear God.

More than 90% of would-be jumpers who were stopped were still alive decades later. That, my friends, is why Jeffrey Alexander Klein’s death was so utterly tragic. I have written numerous times that his death was driven by a TEMPORARY wave of despair and was completely unnecessary. He just needed to be stopped on that day, and there wasn’t anybody or anything there to stop him. The facts are indisputable.

The beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge belies the fact that it is the most used suicide spot in the United States, and second most in the world. Last year was its most tragic yet, as a record 46 people jumped to their deaths from the bridge. The Bridge Rail Foundation estimates that over 1,600 people have died after jumping from the Golden Gate since it opened in 1937.

Retired police officer Kevin Briggs, who used to patrol the bridge, which has been described as “majestic” and an “architectural wonder”, recalls in Smith’s article how the father of a young man who died after jumping from the Golden Gate said to him:

“A view or a life?, A view or a life?”

The answer is quite clear.

The implications of today’s landmark decision to build safety nets below the Golden Gate Bridge are nothing less than staggering. Now that the Board responsible for this iconic bridge has caved to the truth that safety nets save lives, there is not a bridge in the world that can avoid following suit. The Golden Gate is the second largest suspension bridge in the U.S., and the total cost of the safety nets to be built is estimated at $76 million. Thus, the cost to protect the thousands of shorter bridges in the world will pale in comparison.  How ironic it is that Barack Obama, the President that Jeff supported so passionately, is the man who two years ago signed into law a bill making barriers and safety nets eligible for federal funding.  The time is now to seize on the momentum created by today’s incredible decision.

It is painful to know that it is almost inevitable that more people will die jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge before construction of the nets is completed in 2018. Work on this project cannot begin or end soon enough. And it is both heartening and absolutely excruciating to know that one day, the Bear Mountain Bridge will also give in to the overwhelming pressure to build the barriers or safety nets that will eradicate the plague of suicide from that bridge forever.

Tomorrow, once again, the high def movie of Jeff’s final minutes will play in my tortured mind. But after what happened today on our left coast, I will at least know that what is a fantasy for me will someday soon be a reality for scores of other parents who will be spared from going through what our family has endured. Their young adult children may not have heard about the stainless steel nets hanging below the Golden Gate Bridge when they head there to end their lives in 2018. But when they get there and realize their plan has been foiled by brave and compassionate Board members who cared about them, they will almost certainly become part of the 90% who will be here to tell the tale decades from now.

Today, the Golden Gate. Tomorrow, the Bear Mountain and all the others.

Lives have been chosen over a view.

I can’t imagine, though, a more beautiful view than that of a bridge’s safety net, communicating to would-be jumpers through its very presence, that life is always worth living and that it’s time to just turn around and head home.

–Rich Klein

An Intern’s Death Wakes Up Wall Street, But Too Late To Save Jeff

5 May

Wall Street banks have issued directives to ease up the workload and overbearing schedules of summer interns for fear that they are losing the best and the brightest to jobs in Silicon Valley.

Many former interns said that their average workdays lasted for 13 to 14 hours, and it was not unusual to stay in the office until the early hours of the morning at least one or two days per week.

In the Hong Kong office of Barclays, their schedules were so demanding that many began taking naps in the toilets in order to sustain themselves.

The so-called ‘toilet naps’ were reported to The Wall Street Journal with multiple former interns telling the paper how they would go into the toilet stalls, plug their headphones into their cell phones and set an alarm to wake them up a short while later.”

                                                http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2539286/Wall-Street-banks-cutting-interns-weekend-work-harrowing-schedules-force-junior-staffers-TOILET-NAPS-creates-backlash-industry.html

______________________________________________________________________

On a weeknight in late July of 2010, Jeff met me at my office so that we could travel to Queens together to attend the wake of Carey’s first cousin Vivian, who had just died of cancer. It was a particularly painful tragedy given her relative youth. Jeff and I met at around 6 p.m. that night, and he had needed to get permission to leave work that early. He explained the circumstances to his bosses, and of course permission was granted.

At approximately 8 p.m., while still at the wake, Jeff’s blackberry started buzzing non-stop, and I watched him reply as fast as he could to the flood of incoming emails from his office. I quickly became uncomfortable that this was happening in the middle of his Aunt’s wake, and so I asked Jeff what exactly was going on. He said that the attorneys to whom he was accountable on a certain project were demanding that he get back to the office right away to help them meet a client’s deadline (an artificial one, no doubt) with respect to whatever they were working on.

I have spent my entire 31 year career working for the two largest Wall Street banks, and I have seen a lot of appalling things during that time. But the heartlessness that the attorneys at this major law firm demonstrated by instructing Jeff to leave his Aunt’s wake early set a new standard for egregious behavior. I told Jeff to remind them where he was and to let them know he would head back to the office when it was over. But he felt too intimidated to do that, and despite our mutual disgust, Jeff called the law firm’s car service to send someone to pick him up at the funeral home and take him back to work.

When the car arrived, I walked Jeff outside, because I saw clearly that he was shaken. I hugged him hard and reminded him that he had been here before with this job and that this current project was just another temporary fire drill that would soon be over. But the pained look in Jeff’s eyes as he stared back at me told me that he didn’t believe that for a minute. This time was different.

I will never forget that look in his eyes as I said goodbye that night. I asked Jeff if he knew how late he’d have to work. He laughed sarcastically and told me he had no idea. I knew that and don’t know why I asked. I closed the car door after he got in, and I then had to stay outside to compose myself for a minute before going back to the wake. Jeff was in pain, and as all parents know, you feel it as if the pain was your own.

Jeff was never the same after that night, and his hours continued to get longer, the stress greater, and his resolve weaker. On July 28th, after Jeff had not arrived home by 11  p.m., I texted him asking again how late he’d have to stay and how early he’d have to go in the next morning. His terse response containing the worst possible answer made it clear to me, as I’m sure it was to him, that he needed to get out of that place soon.

Jeff really late text

I told Jeff that it’s always better to look for a new job while you still have your old one. However, I also told him that, at the very least, the right thing to do is to give your employer reasonable notice before resigning so that they can transition your responsibilities smoothly to someone else. But Jeff was being buried with work, and he was non-committal on the latter point.

The saving grace during this time was that Jeff had been mostly spared from having to work on weekends. But in early August, he received the following email from his firm’s staffer:

Jeff Staffer email

Jeff did not take this email well. Despite the fact that they only asked for volunteers, Jeff was sure he would be called in even if he didn’t come forward voluntarily:

Jeff email about staffer request

Though it was now crystal clear that it was time for Jeff to move on, he was so swamped that he had no time to even think of pursuing other things. The next punch to the gut came when he had to work an all-nighter shortly thereafter. The day after he did, he made it clear he was ready to go, with or without another job:

Jeff all nighter email

Jeff no shame email

Dear God, OF COURSE there is no shame in that. I just wanted him to do it in a way that would enable him to hold his head high and preserve his ability to get a good reference from the firm for his next employer.  I felt the way to accomplish these objectives was to extend the professional courtesy of giving them notice. But Jeff closed the email above by addressing me and that very point directly:

Jeff ample notice email

In the end, though, I firmly believe that Jeff’s decision to simply quit on the spot on or about August 11th, 2010– when he became so overwhelmed that he couldn’t take it anymore—did, in fact, embarrass him and cause him three weeks later to seek relief from a psychiatrist and his anti-depressants. Eight days after ingesting his first pill, he expressed suicidal thoughts for the first time. The meds fueled thoughts that the way he had walked out on his job was evidence that he would never be able to hack it in the real world. I told Jeff repeatedly that a big New York law firm does not even remotely resemble the real world. The real world was full of opportunity for him, and that is where he should have headed next.

Jeff maroon sweater

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On August 15th, 2013, almost exactly three years after Jeff quit his job, a 21 year old summer intern, Moritz Erhardt, who worked at the London office of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was found dead in his London home after reportedly working 72 consecutive hours without sleep (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/german-banking-intern-died-natural-coroner-article-1.1526142).   According to the article,

“The pathologist Pete Vanezis said the position in which Erhardt’s body was found suggested that he had been unable to breathe after a seizure.

Vanezis said that common triggers for seizures include exposure to flashing lights, stress, drugs, alcohol and exhaustion, but that a fit could also be brought on without any of those factors present.

Coroner Mary Hassell said that exhaustion was the most likely of those triggers to have affected Erhardt…”

Wall Street has long been known for a culture that encourages their youngest workers to work grueling hours through the lure of a lucrative and high-powered career. Long hours are believed to demonstrate dedication to one’s firm. The law firms that serve these banks are even farther down in the pecking order. Banking clients dictate work deadlines to the banks, who then dictate to their law firms the deadline for documents to be generated. Jeff saw firsthand how that all worked.

Firms on Wall Street have not always learned from their mistakes, but Moritz Erhardt’s death sparked an immediate reaction at several major banks, and they have led the way in putting in place formal policies restricting the hours that their interns, analysts and associates can work. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and a few others have each come out with their own versions of a work restriction plan, but they all share a focus on reducing the number of weekend days these young bankers are allowed to work.  By not addressing weekday hours and all-nighters, these plans have not gone nearly far enough, but at least it’s a start for an industry that would have previously considered any such action to be unthinkable.  The table below summarizes the actions that have been announced by various banks:

Although it’s too late for Moritz Erhardt, such measures are bound to save other lives and ease the job-related anxiety and depression that countless others suffer from. The saddest part for me is that I have not read about one major law firm that has done anything similar.   Law Associates and paralegals put in as many or more hours than their banking brethren, and tragically, it will almost surely take a similar highly publicized death at a law firm before they too fall in line. Jeff’s horrible job experience as a paralegal was a contributing factor to his ultimate death, but it was not the only one, and his death did not cause any law firm to change its behavior toward its junior workers.

Until recently, that is, when one individual attempted to change the trend.

On November 9th, 2013, the third anniversary of Jeff’s death, I received a most poignant and meaningful email from a lawyer at one of New York’s largest and most prestigious law firms, and it is one that gives me great hope that real change can start to take hold. The following is the crucial excerpt from that email:

“…While it is impossible to see much good come out of such a tragedy [Jeff’s death], I know that it has made me more aware of mental health issues and more apt to reach out to others if I think that they are having any problems. In particular, at my firm, I have seen the type of pressure that paralegals are under at a large law firm and always try to make myself available to discuss any issues that they have and try to make their lives a little easier.

Just last week, I pulled an all-nighter with the rest of my deal team, and in the morning we realized that the paralegal had made a mistake on a few documents that went out to the client. It wasn’t a very big mistake and was easily fixable, but the senior attorney started screaming at the paralegal. Afterwards, I made it a point to pull the paralegal aside to tell him that he had been doing a great job on the deal (which was true) and that we appreciated that he stayed up with us all night, and offered a tip for how to avoid making the same mistake the next time.

While I like to think that I would have done that anyway, Jeff’s experience at his firm has certainly opened my eyes to the fact that paralegals work incredibly long hours working for demanding associates and partners, and that a small gesture of kindness can hopefully go a long way to reassure a 22 year old right out of college that they are doing a good job. Even earlier tonight, I was stuck at the office with one of our paralegals until midnight and, after I thanked her for staying so late on a Saturday, she said that I was the first associate to express any appreciation for working late since she started in September.

I wish I knew these things back when Jeff was working so that I could have passed along the fact that he was certainly not alone in feeling stressed out and overwhelmed working as a paralegal at a large law firm, but I will have to settle for trying to do my small part to make sure that our paralegals have someone they can approach with any issues.”

I will never, ever say that there is a silver lining or anything good that has come out of my precious son’s death. He was a beautiful young man in all ways, and he should be here with us right now continuing to touch lives directly with his positive energy and compassionate nature. Instead, I prefer to say that there is much that we all can learn from his story. I believe that through such education and awareness, lives have and will continue to be improved or saved. The lawyer who wrote the email above is living proof that this can happen.

And if his behavior is contagious and others in his firm and elsewhere follow his lead, the work environment in these firms will improve and people’s outlooks will become brighter. The number of cases of anxiety and depression will decline. Productivity should then increase. The ripple effect can be huge, not just in law firms and banks, but In every type of organization. You get the idea.

The sea change that has begun to occur on Wall Street comes too late to save either Jeff or Moritz Erhardt, but it no doubt has the potential to save many others. And there is probably nothing nobler I can do with the rest of my life than to use vehicles such as this to try to further raise awareness of these and other issues that can be matters of life and death. And over time, I’m confident that I’ll find an even broader platform through which to reach more people.

Prior to his last two months, Jeff lived his life with a passion that was contagious. I believe that we each need to exert that same level of passion to remove artificially-created pressure from our world’s youth and to treat these young adults in a kind and respectful way that helps build their confidence and reduces their stress.

Don’t get me wrong–I firmly believe in the importance of hard work.  However, I am vehemently opposed to the old ego-driven Wall Street culture that allowed managers to drive their workers, and those workers to drive themselves, beyond reasonable limits with no intervention.  Jeff didn’t need to leave his Aunt’s wake early to go back to his office, he didn’t– and others don’t–need to pull all-nighters to meet artificial deadlines, and Moritz Erhardt didn’t need to work 72 consecutive hours without sleep as part of his internship.

Anyone who manages people in the workplace can learn from what happened to these young men, and if we change behavior accordingly, we will make peoples’ lives better and more productive, and we will potentially prevent future tragedies. And in the process, we’ll also be honoring Jeff’s life by continuing to learn from his tragic and unnecessary end.

–Rich Klein