A Butte father who lost his son to suicide embarked on a 130-mile bike ride to spread awareness about suicide and honor those who died from suicide.
"People think that it can't happen to them and that it can't happen to their family, you know, that's always somebody else, and it's not always somebody else," said Bill Wheeler, who lost his 15-year-old son Jacob to suicide on January 1, 2014. Now almost two years later he continues to push forward despite the pain.
"It's a lifelong struggle to deal with your life. It's something that just simply doesn't go away," Wheeler said.
On Thursday, Wheeler and his brother took a round trip bike ride along I-15 from Butte to Helena spreading awareness about suicide on a “Ride to Hope and Remember.”
"Hope that we can make things better and get Montana off the number one for the highest suicide rate in the nation, and the second part is to remember and so we're riding to remember the ones that have lost their battle and have lost to suicide," explained Wheeler.
Since the death of his son, Wheeler and his family started the Jacob Wheeler Foundation offering support to others grieving a suicide loss. The foundation grants scholarships to youth who help promote suicide awareness and prevention.
"We need to erase the stigma of depression so that people are comfortable talking about it." Wheeler said. "There’s a large number of kids that suffer from depression. There's a large number of adults that suffer from depression. I think we need to do everything we can to reach out to them to try to help them because we don't want to lose them."
According to the Jacob Wheeler Foundation website, Montana averages at least 220 suicides a year, and people grieving suicide are at a high risk for committing suicide themselves. An example of this happened in southwest Montana after Butte police confirmed an 18-year old girl committed suicide weeks after her 20-year old husband killed himself.