Slim-Fast Developer Laid Off, Jumps To His Death

SlimFast death suicide Clive BlackburnThe economic crisis has wrecked many lives, and stolen a few too. The latest apparent casualty was found on a grassy patch behind the Bedforshire, U.K., complex of Unilever, the world's third largest consumer goods company. Clive Blackburn was a preeminent food scientist, who developed Slim-Fast drinks and other prepackaged products. The day after he was laid off, the 48-year-old Blackburn jumped off the company's roof.

Blackburn, a passionate scuba diver and squash player, worked for Unilever for 15 years, reports the Daily Mail, first developing ice cream (with brand names like Ben & Jerry's, Good Humor, Klondike, and Wall's, Unilever is the world's biggest ice cream maker). He also worked on food preservation, and even co-authored and contributed to books on the subject: "The Stability and Shelf-Life of Food" and "Foodborne Pathogens: Hazards, Risk Analysis and Control."

For three years Blackburn managed 20 employees, who developed a variety of ready-to-drink beverages, like Slim-Fast and Lipton Tea. Last May, he was told that he was being laid off. After his last day -- Friday, Nov. 11 -- Blackburn edited his LinkedIn profile to read "1963-2011" and marked the end of his employment at Unilever. The next day he returned to the empty laboratory, and jumped off the roof.

"The cause of his death was recorded as multiple bone and soft tissue injuries, consistent with a fall from height," Coroner David Morris told the inquest on his death.

In the months leading up to the day of his death, Blackburn's co-workers said that they noticed that he began to act strangely, and the scientist reportedly told his doctor about his bleak and depressive thoughts. Blackburn is said to have told him that at work he was simply "going through the motions," and even though Blackburn was in the second round of interviews at potential new jobs, his last day at Unilever was "looming large in his thoughts."

"He was a highly intelligent and highly qualified scientist who struggled with anxiety. With the impending redundancy he developed severe depression," said Morris. "I have no alternative but to record a verdict that he took his own life, whilst suffering from acute depression."

The economic crisis, and the resulting layoffs, have pushed others over the edge. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2009, the latest year for which data is available. That's one death by suicide every 14 minutes and 12 seconds. The numbers have been increasing every year since 2006.

One Costa Mesa, Calif., maintenance worker jumped from the five-story roof of City Hall last year, less than three weeks after officials decided to lay off half the city's employees. A prominent District of Columbia attorney, who was recently pink-slipped, was found dead in his office on his last day of work in 2009. Police called it an apparent suicide.

A London stock trader, Asif Mohamedali, allegedly told his boss that he was having suicidal thoughts after losing the equivalent of $27 million on the job. He claims that his manager told him "tough luck, dude" and "pull yourself together," then fired him a few months later.

Blackburn's family asked relatives and friends who planned to attend the funeral to donate to MIND, a leading mental health charity in England and Wales.


Need help? In the U.S. you can call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, every day. All calls are confidential.



Next: Boss Indifferent To My Suicidal Impulse, Says Stock Trader Who Lost Millions



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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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blackopsg3

sound like someone did not want the company secrets to get out!

June 12 2012 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bilderstein

Slim-Fast was started in 1977 as a product line of the Thompson Medical Company, founded in the 1940's by S. Daniel Abraham.

March 09 2012 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shril1211

claire thanks for article and thanks for National Suicide Prevention phone number.
Sometimes people keep quiet about their loved ones ongoing bout with depression
but we need to address, network, yell about it from the rooftop. My nephew committed
suicide at the age of 50 and his situation was kept low key. I don't know really
what would have worked but am just throwing my opinion out. Take care everyone
life is precious.

March 08 2012 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brianp67

he should work for himself screw working for somebody elese keep in mind your employeer don't give a **** about you

March 06 2012 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ed Gauthier

The term "developer" denotes that a person created or radically revamped products as we now know them, since they were deemed not quite ready (i.e. undeveloped) before that time. Lipton Tea, Ben & Jerry's, Good Humor, Klondike and Slim-Fast, however, were on the market and fully developed far longer than a mere 15 years ago. Someone in recent years may have "worked on" improving or fine tuning certain product flavors in a line, but he certainly "developed" nothing.

March 06 2012 at 5:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Roswell51

The article says he developed Slim Fast drinks. It didn't say he invented them. He could have come up with new flavors or formulas.

March 05 2012 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
spardue

Did the writer do any research? Widipedia says that Slim Fast was introduced on 1977. The man profiled in this article would have been thirteen years old at a that time. Something's wrong with the data in this article - perhaps he worked in product development for that company, but he was most certainly NOT the original developer of Slim Fast.

March 04 2012 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave Ron

If he used slimfast (bloatslow) I'd be depressed too.

March 04 2012 at 5:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flagrante

He incorporated his passions for diving and squash in his last moments

March 02 2012 at 4:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to flagrante's comment
Ed

Sometimes your the bug, sometimes your the windshield.

March 05 2012 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
J

Perhaps he should have had a V8 instead?
(I know, I know. But I am going to hell anyway, so why not go out with a chuckle?)

February 22 2012 at 1:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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