MADISON (WKOW) -- Melissa Mieden knows the pain of losing her brother to suicide.
Now she's working to help others recognize the signs of a potentially suicidal person so you can avoid enduring the pain she and her family still goes through.
Joe LaBarbera shows you how Melissa's dedication and passion is making a difference in Madison.
Melissa Mieden loved her younger brother Wade.
Her family memories go back to the days where Dad was still wearing a leisure suit and Mom and brother were wearing the big glasses.
The family's fashions have changed through the years, but their love for one another has not. This is the last family photo ever taken with her brother Wade.
The handsome young man took his own life on July 22, 2004, devastating the Mieden family and hitting Melissa hard.
"I think I loved most that he was ferociously loyal," Melissa says. "He was the sweetest person in the world and he would do anything for you. He was a protector. I miss that. I think that there's only a few people on earth that have my back the way that he did and he's not here anymore."
Wade was a pretty typical kid growing up and working his way through life. As he got older he went through emotional changes. When he killed himself that July day, he left a baby girl without a father.
Melissa decided her brother's suicide would be the face of hope for others in Wade's emotional shoes.
"It's just something that's not talked about a lot," Melissa says. "You have classes on how to drive carefully. So when someone loses someone in a car accident, you know, you're comfortable with that situation. Cancer, there's talk about that all over the place. But suicide is just still very taboo."
A taboo that somehow seems to carry a stigma -- along with mental illness or depression.
"Depression's a condition just like diabetes or cancer and you're not ashamed to say you have that," Melissa says. "But mental illness is embarrassing for people and they don't know how to deal with it."
Melissa's not just talking the talk, she's walking the walk. She started a suicide prevention community walk four years ago right here in Madison, and hopes to help those on the suicidal fence get the help they need.
"I'm not a doctor and I'm not a psychologist, but can I make a difference in getting them to the correct person. Absloutely. But just getting them to where they need to be. That's what will make the difference I think," Melissa says.
Melissa Mieden knows saving one life means saving a family from enduring tremendous pain. It's a battle she vows to never stop fighting.