DEPRESSION MED: Woman Turns Into a “Botox Bandit” Florida

Paragraph 19 reads: “In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.”

http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1015369.ece

Spa manager believes she is a victim of the Botox Bandit
By Justin George, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, July 3, 2009

TAMPA ­ The woman came in looking to peel off her past.

Blond hair, blue eyes, gym shorts. Like the girl next door, thought the manager of Skin NV, a med spa that opened in May.

The client said her 10-year high school reunion was around the corner and she wanted to be the envy of everyone else.

The spa obliged.

Chemical peel: $50. Laser treatment: $348. A protein-rich recovery cream: $155. Clarisonic Skin Care Brush: $195. Prescription-grade Vitamin A: $74.

Then came the bill: $851.68, not uncommon in South Tampa, where looks matter and women have the means, said Anne Nelson, Skin NV’s manager.

The client wrote a check and signed it Jaimie Merk.

Five days later, on June 15, the check bounced. It bounced again on repeat tries. Nelson has the bank paperwork to prove it.

That’s when she learned the story of the Botox Bandit.

“What kind of girl does this?” she asks now. “I just don’t understand.”

• • •

On Jaimie Merk’s Facebook page, her profile photo flashes an even, bright white smile.

She’s single, 32, and says she works as a weight-loss clinic director.

She majored in psychology at the University of North Florida.

Yoga is her new obsession, she notes on Facebook. She loves lying in the sun, hearing a baby laugh and getting facials.

She has nearly 400 friends. Some write her daily.

She doesn’t like to be called “ma’am.”

Elsewhere, a different picture of Merk appears.

Once, in a courtroom, a doctor testified that her self-esteem was so low that she resorts to stealing Botox to feel better, according to an attorney who was part of the proceedings.

In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.

People victimized by Merk do not have much sympathy.

Their names show up in lawsuits and court judgments.

• • •

In August 2007, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office asked the public for help catching the “Botox Bandit.”

A woman had shown up at Rejuva Plastic Surgery Center and Medi-Spa, received a facial and cosmetic procedures, and then disappeared leaving an $850 bill. She used an alias.

The Sheriff’s Office had a picture of the suspect ­ made possible because the plastic surgeon had taken a “before” photo.

A tip led deputies to Jaimie Merk, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said at the time.

It was just one of several cases that landed her on probation until 2012 for several convictions of grand theft and worthless checks in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Her civil court and probation files contain claims from pet supply stores, renters and even an adoption agency saying she owes them money.

Those who have dealt with Merk wonder whether there are other victims.

• • •

Pregnant in 2004, Merk agreed to turn over her unborn child to adoptive parents through Heart of Adoptions of Tampa, according to a lawsuit the agency filed.

She told the adoption agency that she had no idea who the father was, the lawsuit stated. She said she met him at a bar.

Medical records stated that Joshua Sean Squires was the father. But Merk signed a notarized statement disputing that, the lawsuit said.

The adoptive parents and the agency paid her more than $5,000 for living expenses, attorney fees and other costs.

A few weeks later, the agency heard from Squires.

In an interview with the Times, he said he was in a weeks-­long relationship with Merk when she became pregnant.

“She knew she was pregnant with my child,” he said. “There was no one-night stand with anyone, and I was in the delivery room on Dec. 23, 2004.”

Squires, 30, now has custody of the 4½-year-old girl.

In 2006, a judge ordered Merk to pay the agency $6,113, court records show.

The agency’s executive director, Brigette Barno, said Monday that Merk has paid nothing.

• • •

In January 2008, prospective renters responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising a Seminole Heights house that belongs to Merk’s mother, according to Hillsborough property records.

Two of them, Angela Hart and Eric Younghans, wound up suing Merk in small claims court. Hart also sued Merk’s mother.

They say Jaimie Merk showed them a house and collected $1,900 from each of them.

Hart, suspicious after Merk delayed the move-in date, looked her up on Google and learned of her Botox Bandit past. She asked for her money back. In a court document, she said Merk agreed.

Younghans, meanwhile, learned from Merk that the house wouldn’t be available. Merk told him she would refund his money, he said.

Neither got a refund. Merk made excuses, they said. Sometimes she didn’t return calls.

In 2008, a judge ordered her to pay each $2,075. In Hart’s case, Merk’s mother was also held responsible, according to the final judgment.

So far, Hart, 30, has received $150, she said.

“She’s never going to learn her lesson,” Hart said of Merk. “People say people change. They don’t.”

Younghans, 56, has received $150, he said.

“She seemed very believable,” he said. “She’s very good at it.”

• • •

Merk did not respond to a voice mail message from the Times for this story. A note was left at her door seeking comment. An attorney who represented her did not call back.

“I’m not giving any comments,” said her mother, Debra Merk, who owns a $1.1 million waterfront house in Clearwater Beach. “As far as I know, what you’re saying is not true.”

• • •

In hindsight, the Skin NV manager said she felt a little wary about Merk’s June 10 check when she noticed the address in a neighborhood of rentals.

After the check bounced, she tried to call Merk. The phone numbers Merk left didn’t work.

Nelson sent her business partner to Merk’s stated address, a pink apartment building. The partner left a note.

No one called back.

Nelson contacted the Hillsborough County Victims Assistance program. A counselor helped her start the process of filing a bad check complaint. That process is now under way. No charges have been filed.

Nelson even tried to connect with Merk by inviting her to be a “friend” on Facebook.

Merk didn’t respond.

On June 25, after a Times reporter left messages for Merk, she sent an e-mail to the spa.

“I’m very sorry I did not contact you sooner,” she wrote. “I have not had a phone since you left that letter at my apartment, and I just received another letter in the mail today.

“I just want you to know that I am very sorry for this, and of course I’m going to pay for the services I received,” she wrote. “I am just not sure why you have chosen to take this further without even giving me the opportunity to rectify the situation.”

Merk said she would bring the money in this week.

Nelson told her the spa would be closed Friday.

By the end of the day Thursday, Merk hadn’t paid.

• • •

On a Facebook quiz, Merk writes that she loves the smell of flowers and wants to meet the man of her dreams.

Two things she is proud of? Her daughter and family.

Two things she is not proud of? “Let’s keep those in the closet,” she wrote.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368.

506 total views, no views today

DEPRESSION MED: 15 Year Old Hangs Himself: Illinois

FDA ‘black-box’ warning – In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began warning of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among youths taking anti-depressants. In 2004, the agency required a new, more stringent label when antidepressants were prescribed to those under 18.

Between 2003-04 the youth suicide rate jumped 14 percent
– the steepest increase ever seen – while the number of antidepressant prescriptions for youths dramatically dropped during the same period: 20 percent for children 10 and under, 12 percent for 11-to-14-year-olds and 10 percent for 15-to-19-year-olds.

Paragraphs 29 & 30 read: “He stopped going to school and began attending an outpatient program, seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist and taking medication for depression and anxiety. He tried returning to school on a half-day basis, but soon became overwhelmed with makeup work and inquiries from classmates who heard rumors he had tried to kill himself. After a few days in school, Iain asked to be readmitted to the hospital, where he stayed for a week, his parents said.”

“But as summer approached, he began showing signs of improvement. He was easier to communicate with, did his chores when asked and his doctors believed they had found the right balance in his medication, his father said.”

Paragraph 32 reads: “Lain’s parents and friends say they do not know of any incidents that might have triggered what happened June 3, when his father found him in the basement. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. He did not leave a note.”

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/07/05/20090705bullying.html

Bullied boy’s short life ends in suicide
Jul. 5, 2009 08:20 AM
Associated Press

CHICAGO – The bullying seemed inescapable.

His family and friends say it followed Iain Steele from junior high to high school
– from hallways, where one tormentor shoved him into lockers, to cyberspace, where another posted a video on Facebook making fun of his taste for heavy metal music.

“At one point, (a bully) had told (Iain) he wished he would kill himself,” said Matt Sikora, Iain’s close friend.

Iain’s parents know their son had other problems, but they believe the harassment contributed to a deepening depression that hospitalized the 15-year-old twice this year. On June 3, while his classmates were taking final exams, he went to the basement of his home and hanged himself with a belt.

His death stunned his quiet suburb west of Chicago and unleashed an outpouring of support for his parents, William and Liz, who say greater attention should be paid to bullying and its connection to mental health.

“No kid should be afraid for himself to go to school,” his father said. “It should be a safe environment where they can intellectually thrive. And he was, literally, just frightened to go to school, fearing what he would have to deal with on that day. And it was day after day.”

A school spokeswoman said she did not believe Iain was bullied. Police are investigating the allegations.

Nearly 30 percent of American children are bullied or are bullies themselves, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological and is repetitive, intentional and creates a perceived imbalance of power, said Dr. Joseph Wright, senior vice president at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.

Soon, the American Academy of Pediatrics will for the first time include a section on bullying in its official policy statement on the pediatrician’s role in preventing youth violence.

Wright, a lead author of the statement, said the decision to address the issue was due to a growing body of research over the last decade linking bullying to youth violence, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Last year, the Yale School of Medicine conducted analysis of the link between childhood bullying and suicide in 37 studies from 13 countries, finding both bullies and their victims were at high risk of contemplating suicide.

In March, the parents of a 17-year-old Ohio boy who committed suicide filed a lawsuit against his school alleging their son was bullied. Instead of seeking compensation, they are asking the school to put in place an anti-bullying program and to recognize their son’s death as a “bullicide.”

Iain Steele enjoyed riding his skateboard, his father said, but after hip surgery in 8th grade limited his mobility, he picked up the guitar and impressed an instructor with his musical talent.

He was revered by younger kids in the neighborhood, often fixing their skateboards, settling their disputes and including them in games. “He was a very gentle, kind kid, compassionate to a fault,” his father said. But Iain’s embrace of heavy metal set him apart from classmates. He let his hair grow to shoulder-length and wore mostly black clothing, including jeans with chains and T-shirts of heavy metal bands with dark, sometimes morbid lyrics.

For this, his classmates at McClure Junior High School often called him “emo” – a slang term for angst-ridden followers of a style of punk music, said Sikora, 15.

The bullying could also be physical, Iain’s friends and parents said. In 8th grade at McClure, one bully pushed Iain into a locker while he was on crutches and accused him of faking an injury to get out of gym class. Iain rarely shied away from his tormentors, however, and in this case, he punched the bully in the jaw, his father said.

“He was mainly bullied only because he was different, or hurt, or stupid things like that,” said Sikora. “He never bothered anybody. … It was all just because he was different and an easy target.”

William Steele said his son had trouble ignoring the bullying because it “was just sort of relentless.” It got to the point where the father sat down with the principal at McClure and with a bully’s mother. But the harassment did not subside.

Steele said, “(Iain) had a real trust issue because he felt like, particularly at McClure, the system let him down, that it didn’t deliver on its promise to protect him from bullying.”

McClure Principal Dan Chick said in an e-mail “the District 101 community is deeply saddened by this recent tragedy of losing one of our children.” Chick said he takes bullying very seriously but declined to discuss details of Iain’s case because of privacy issues.

“As with all situations, I investigated this specific matter and took appropriate actions within the limits of my authority,” Chick said.

After graduating from McClure in 2008, Iain began attending the south campus for freshmen and sophomores at Lyons Township High School, where he found new friends – and new tormentors. A new bully emerged who at first acted friendly but then posted a homemade video on Facebook pretending to be Iain playing heavy metal on guitar.

“It was like a public humiliation to (Iain),” Sikora said.

The family of the student did not respond to requests for comment.

Jennifer Bialobok, a spokeswoman for Lyons Township High School, said “bullying is obviously not tolerated at LT,” but added, “I don’t think we’re naive enough to think that bullying behavior doesn’t exist.”

Two years ago, Lyons Township created a “speak up line” in which students can anonymously report “inappropriate or unsafe behavior,” and the school hangs posters defining bullying and explaining how to report it, Bialobok said. If any student reported being bullied, a thorough investigation would take place, with consequences ranging from parental notification to out-of-school suspension, she said.

Bialobok said she could not discuss Iain’s case because of student privacy laws, but, “we don’t believe that bullying was an issue while Iain was attending LT. Counselors and a host of other support personnel worked routinely to make his experience at LT a positive one.”

Local police have not documented incidents of bullying involving Iain but are still conducting interviews, Deputy Chief Brian Budds said.

By this winter, Iain’s mental health had begun a downward spiral, his parents said. In February, he told them he was having suicidal thoughts and asked to be admitted to the hospital.

He stopped going to school and began attending an outpatient program, seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist and taking medication for depression and anxiety. He tried returning to school on a half-day basis, but soon became overwhelmed with makeup work and inquiries from classmates who heard rumors he had tried to kill himself. After a few days in school, Iain asked to be readmitted to the hospital, where he stayed for a week, his parents said.

But as summer approached, he began showing signs of improvement. He was easier to communicate with, did his chores when asked and his doctors believed they had found the right balance in his medication, his father said.

“He seemed to be in a calm, happy place,” he said.

Iain’s parents and friends say they do not know of any incidents that might have triggered what happened June 3, when his father found him in the basement. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. He did not leave a note.

Looking back, Iain’s parents wonder what factors besides bullying may have contributed to their son’s depression.

Iain’s favorite heavy metal bands, such as Lamb of God and Children of Bodem and Bullet for My Valentine, often have lyrics with dark messages. One Bullet for My Valentine song is about being bullied, and another song contains the refrain: “The only way out is to die.”

Also, Iain was deeply hurt this spring after a brief relationship with a girl he met in his outpatient program. The two exchanged text messages, but her parents and therapists advised against them dating and about two months ago barred her from having communication with him.

Still, Iain’s parents remain convinced bullying played a significant role in their son’s depression. As Iain’s story spread through the community, many people approached Liz Steele to describe their own experiences with bullying, depression or suicide, she said.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about mental health or bullying because it’s a difficult thing to talk about, but we need to talk about it,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a stigma.”

Meanwhile, the community has rallied behind the Steeles. In Iain’s memory, his classmates tied white ribbons around hundreds of trees in the neighborhood. On June 10, about 500 people attended a memorial service at First Congregational Church of Western Springs.

Rich Kirchherr, senior minister at the church, said the community has felt a “deep and abiding sadness” since Iain’s death. Kirchherr said few people seemed aware that Iain was bullied.

“There is an acknowledgment now, as people have discovered that Iain might not always have been treated with the respect that every person deserves,” Kirchherr said. “Many people were surprised to hear that.”

Friends have established several Facebook groups in his memory, including the “Iain Steele Remembrance Group,” which has more than 700 members. The commentary on the group’s wall was summed up by a Lyons Township High School student who said she did not know Iain but had learned an important lesson from his death.

“I’m learning to treat everyone with respect, even people who I don’t know well or people who I might not get along with,” she wrote. “If there is anything good that can come out of this tragedy, the responsibility lies with us to live with kindness and be aware that life is fragile.”

565 total views, no views today

After 3 months on Paxil, my hell started.

“Anybody who is thinking about taking medication for depression should think again.”

 

Everything started about 8 – 9 years ago.

I was going trough menopause and was feeling horrible. My doctor prescribed me Paxil. I took it for 6 months. I was not feeling very good on it because my underling problem was menopause. I got off the drug very slowly. I was not feeling very bad by slowly discontinuing the medication. About 3 months lather my hell started. I was having electric shocks (my doctor said that I had pinched nerve), flue like symptoms, I was vomiting and could not sleep.

I was suicidal. All I wanted to do is die. My therapist sent me to psychiatrist. He put me on Depakote for manic depression. I was going trough hell on Depakote. I was having horrible depression. I do not know why or how I went to gynecologist. I was put on natural estrogen and progesterone prescribed by doctor (from companding pharmacy). Suddenly I got better. I decided to get off Depakote. But because I was afraid to get off the drug knowing what Paxil did to me I stayed on it for maybe 7 years.

After I decided to get off Depakote I went through another hell.

I believe that I got dependent on the drug because every single time I was getting off I had to go back on medication. I remember when I was asking my psychiatrist whether I would have to be able to get off the medication that he told me that 90% people have to stay on it for rest of their life’s. Now I know why. By that time I was reading a book from Peter Breggin “Your drug may be your problem.” I was determined to get off the medication no matter what.

I was able, by increasing my hormones. For 6 months I was feeling wonderful. After 6 months I was feeling miserable again. I could not increase my hormones because I was on relatively high dose, so I was prescribed Remeron. I have been on it only for 2 months 15 mg and I am trying to get off it again.

I am going trough hell again. It feels like somebody is cutting my whole body. The physical withdrawal symptoms are worst then mental. By using this relatively “safe” drugs I am going trough hell and I am suicidal. I developed chronic insomnia. I cannot eat or sleep. My only solution is suicide. Anybody who is thinking about taking medication for depression should think again

Viera

 

1995

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 96.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

588 total views, 0 views today