Two years ago in June, Ann Marie Schortemeyer, 25, was
driving home from work when Karen Mayer, her aunt, phoned with
After an attempted suicide, Edwin Schortemeyer, Ann Marie’s father,
a veteran union plumber from Manorville, was in critical condition at John T.
Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson.
Confused and distraught, Ms.
Schortemeyer, who was living in Wisconsin at the time, booked a plane ticket to
New York and spent the next 10 days waiting for her 50-year-old father to wake
from a coma. But Mr. Schortemeyer, who attempted suicide by hanging himself in a
backyard garage at his home in Rocky Point, suffered lasting brain damage and
severe memory loss. He is now under supervision at Hempstead Park Nursing Home
and does not remember ever trying to commit suicide, his daughter
Now, Ms. Schortemeyer, who lives in Sag Harbor, is on a quiet
mission to spread awareness about suicide prevention on Long Island. She and her
fund-raising group, Eddie’s Angels, which has five members, collect donations
for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention [AFSP], a nationwide
organization that advocates research into the causes of suicide. To date, they
have collected $2,208 for the foundation.
Ms. Schortemeyer is also
participating in a suicide awareness walk at the Old Westbury Gardens in Old
Westbury on October 4, about a month after September 10, which is World Suicide
“I don’t think people realize how big a problem
depression and mental illness can be,” Ms. Schortemeyer said last week. “It can
affect anyone. I thought my dad was a happy man, and it turns out he had his own
battle with depression.”
The suicide or attempted suicide of a loved one
touches the lives of thousands of Americans each year, AFSC Executive Director
Bob Gebbia said. More than 33,000 people in the United States commit suicide a
year and close to a million attempt suicide, he said.
“If you take the
suicides and the attempted suicides and put them together, you can see that this
is a serious problem,” Mr. Gebbia said.
The Old Westbury Gardens walk is
expected to raise $125,000 for the AFSP to help fund education and research
grants for suicide prevention, Mr. Gebbia said. The money goes toward research
grants for institutions such as Columbia University, and will help fund
investigations into brain chemistry, psychosocial behavior and other symptoms
that can lead to suicide.
The walk in Old Westbury Gardens is one of 190
walks that will occur throughout the country this fall to raise awareness about
suicide prevention. Mr. Gebbia said more than 50,000 people are expected to
One of the foundation’s goals is to break the social
stigma that keeps people from discussing suicide and mental illness with
“Suicide is something that is not talked about, it is kept in the
shadows,” said Mr. Gebbia, noting that symptoms relating to suicide can be
treated with medication and therapy. “Suicide is the result of illness, not the
result of character flaws or a personal weakness.”
In Ms. Schortemeyer’s
experience, her father attempted suicide without giving any clear forewarning to
his family and friends. Neither Ms. Schortemeyer or her sister, Sharon, 23, of
Lindenhurst saw any warning signs leading up to the tragedy, Ms. Schortemeyer
said. But in retrospect, Ms. Schortemeyer said, there were “1,000 warning signs”
that her father was battling depression, yet “me and my sister didn’t even
notice it. It just seemed like a funny phase.”
According to Ms.
Schortemeyer, her father, a former Manorville volunteer firefighter and classic
car aficionado, was good humored and a hard worker. He loved his children, and
would bring his two daughters boxes with gifts from home on monthly visits when
they were in college, Ms. Schortemeyer said.
However, Mr. Schortemeyer
suffered from loneliness and was on medication for depression, Ms. Schortemeyer
His second marriagehe married about two weeks before he
attempted suicidewas tumultuous, by Ms. Schortemeyer’s account. “He married
a woman he didn’t know too well,” Ms. Schortemeyer said.
conversations, Mr. Schortemeyer often complained of money problems and of his
daughters being so far away from home. In 2007, Sharon was attending college in
Florida and Ann Marie was working as an administrative assistant for a
construction company in Wisconsin.
“He just seemed to be complaining a
lot about credit card bills and the cost of maintaining a home,” Ms.
Schortemeyer said. “I thought it wasn’t anything that big.”
before Mr. Schortemeyer hung himself, he called Ms. Schortemeyer in Wisconsin
and left a voice message to thank her for a Father’s Day card. “He said he
misses me and to please call him soon,” said Ms. Schortemeyer, who reached the
message the following day.