Family raises awareness about suicide: 'It hurts just as much as it did then'

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MEDFORD, Wis. (WSAW) -- Nearly 700 people a year die from suicide in the state of Wisconsin, according to the Department of Health Services.

With numbers so high, families like the Hemmers, who lost their son Jason 21 years ago, work to spread awareness of signs and share their own personal experience.

"The day before it, we were watching the football game. The Packers were going on for the playoffs, and we were all home watching for that. We had all planned on going snowmobiling the next day. He loved snowmobiling," said Paul Hemmer, Jason's father.

Jason was his father's hunting buddy, a new college student and the older brother of then 15-year-old Jody Will.

"My teachers tried, but then I don't think they really knew what to do, how to help me," Will said. "My philosophy is just hold tight to the memories you have... and hold tight to the people that are there to support you, because they are going to be the ones who will get you through it."

Will is now a teacher and makes sure to help students going through similar situations.

Despite two decades going by, the Hemmer family still makes awareness a priority, in honor of Jason.

"I always say it's one of the few things we can do for our son anymore. It's human nature for a parent to want to be there for their kids," said Nancy Hemmer, Jason's mom. "There's not a lot we can do anymore for Jason, but we can do this."

Read the original version of this article at wsaw.com.