The Acting Chief of Richmond Fire-Rescue says he hopes the suicide of 44-year-old Captain Bryan Kongus will draw public attention to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among first responders.
Kongus was a service member for over 22 years. His suicide was ruled as a line-of-duty death by WorkSafe BC after what the Richmond firefighter’s union called a “long struggle with PTSD.”
A full-honors funeral was held at Fraserview Mennonite Brethren Church after a funeral procession this morning.
Acting Chief Tim Wilkinson says the department has a number of initiatives in place to try and combat PTSD in the workplace. He adds Richmond Fire was the first in the province to implement a critical incident stress management team.
The department also holds debriefings and diffusings after difficult events, and has added a “resilient minds” course that teaches members to look out for each other.
Wilkinson explained that the decision to make Kongus’ death public was to shed light on mental health issues with first responders as well as the general public.
“The stimaga doesn’t help,” he says. “It has people hiding away and not getting all the help they need. Sometimes it’s good to just make sure that we’re talking, we’re out there letting people know that we are also affected by these difficult events.
“We learned that we’re not bullet-proof… we’re people just like everybody else. We have to pay attention to the effects that these strange events have on our bodies and our mental health.”
According to the lobby group “You Are Not Alone PTSD BC,” 19 first responders committed suicide in the province in 2016.