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Adam Kern used to avoid dealing with his father' suicide, but the Richmond Hill resident said he recently realized that was not the answer.
"I've had to deal with it, but I've always brushed it aside," said Kern, 26. "It's a hard thing to talk about."
In June, Kern is expected to embark on a 20-mile walk across Manhattan from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to raise awareness for suicide prevention as part of an event called National Out of the Darkness Overnight.
"It's taken so long for me to even recognize that I could make [the tragedy] into a good thing," Kern said. "Walking overnight seemed kind of fun. We'll be walking all night long, so that's kind of a trip."
He said he has raised $930 so far for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which requests donors to take in $1,000 each from the walk. Kern said his goal is to raise $5,000.
Kern was 15 when his father, divorced from his mother but living in the same house, shot himself 11 years ago following a "serious altercation two days prior" with his ex-wife.
He said he did not notice any warning signs that his father was suicidal, but said his dad was in a drug and alcohol recovery program.
"Apparently he stopped doing what the program said to do and he started using again," Kern said. "It was an utter, complete shock. It was kind of insane. I guess he was just depressed. I never saw it."
He said his father "was just a great guy" who coached his baseball and soccer teams growing up.
"He always bought the team ice cream," Kern said. "He was just an excellent parent."
The suicide led Kern to become depressed himself and start using drugs, he said.
"It was an attempt to avoid [the suicide], to escape," he said. "It's hard to take because they took their own life and it leaves you in a very strange spot. Like all tragedies, when they happen to you, you're like, 'How could this happen to me?' "
Kern said it is important to recognize someone who may be suicidal and even more important to talk about it.
"If you see signs in your own family of depression, it's better to feel like the bad guy and speak up than to not say anything at all," he said. "In matters like this, I think it's imperative for the family to say something."
Kern said he feels better now that he talks about his father and said the walk marks a turning point in how he deals with the suicide.
"I really feel that this is just the beginning," he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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