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After father's suicide, son uses a passion to honor his memoryClimber at his peak exposing depressionBy CHARLES WILSONAssociated Press INDIANAPOLIS — Step by step: That's how people defeat depression. It's also how Joe Lawson climbs mountains.For the 36-year-old Lawson, the two are intertwined.His father, Virgil Lawson, committed suicide in 1986 when Joe was 16. The next year, Joe Lawson climbed his first mountain during a school trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, igniting a lifelong passion.Now, he's funneling that passion into Expedition Hope, his quest to scale the seven summits — the tallest mountain on each continent — to focus awareness on depression."I thought, 'If I'm going to do this ... why not do this for a good cause?' " Lawson said from Punta Arenas, Chile, en route to his next challenge, Vinson Massif in Antarctica.His first attempt — on Alaska's Mount McKinley in May 2005 — failed when he fell into a hidden crevasse and injured his knee. But Lawson has since climbed Mount Kosciuszko in Australia and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa."It's so beautiful here," Lawson said from Patriot Hills, Antarctica, on a Web site chronicling his journey. "It's the clearest I've ever seen. ... Amazing!"When he reaches the 16,067-foot summit, he'll take out a photo of himself at 8 with his father and bury it in the snow, as he has done on the other two peaks.Lawson's parents had divorced and his father had moved to California by the time Lawson was in high school. Virgil Lawson still phoned Joe and his siblings once or twice a week. One week, his father's phone calls turned bleak."He called and said, 'I love you, and I'm going to kill myself,' " Lawson recalled.The teenage Joe didn't know how to respond.Lawson said he didn't understand at the time that depression was an illness that could be treated. Many still don't understand, or, like Lawson's father, feel too isolated and ashamed to ask for help, he said.He began thinking about scaling the seven summits. A couple of years ago, he decided to use the quest to help people who, like his father did, feel trapped by depression.
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