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UPDATE: Cultus Lake firefighter struggling with mental health takes his own life

Friends, family and strangers mourning the loss of 23-year-old Connor Sloan over Christmas
Volunteer firefighters with the Cultus Lake Fire Department are mourning the suicide of Connor Sloan who was apparently suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Cultus Lake Fire Department)

Tragedy struck over Christmas as a young Cultus Lake firefighter who was suffering with ongoing mental health issues took his own life.

Word of the death of Connor Sloan was shared on the Cultus Lake Fire Department’s Facebook page on Boxing Day.

“It’s with saddened hearts that we regret to announce that yesterday we lost one of our beloved members, Connor Sloan,” the post read. “He was the one person that would make you smile no matter what the occasion, he always took care to ask everyone how life is going and offer advice at every corner. Rest easy brother, we will take watch from here. Gone but never forgotten.”

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The 23-year-old was a Sardis secondary graduate, he worked at Asplundh Canada, he bartended at Triple Play Pub downtown Chilliwack, and he was a volunteer firefighter with the Cultus Lake Fire Department.

Family and friends were looking for Sloan on Christmas Eve, and that is when he passed, according to his mother Tammy. He was found on Christmas Day.

Battalion Chief Cody Helmer said the firefighters are taking Sloan’s death hard, particularly because they do work on to focus on debriefing after traumatic events.

“We are very open so it was a big shocker to us that he did take his life,” Helmer said Friday, adding that Sloan was a hard worker, well-liked and was always positive. “Connor was an awesome guy. Everyone loved him.”

A GoFundMe was created by a fellow firefighter to help Sloan’s family with funeral expenses. Not even 24 hours after it was set up, more than $8,700 was donated. By Monday morning it was up to $13,872.

“Connor was the definition of a genuine amazing person that truly cared for all people he came in contact with,” the GoFundMe page says in part. “Our department and community has been crushed by this unfortunate news and would like to do anything we can for his family in this sad time.”

The post is accompanied with the hashtags that make mention of mental health, PTSD and CISM, which stands for critical incident stress management, a psychological technique to help first responders deal with trauma.

Helmer said there are representatives from all fire departments on a CISM committee for the Upper Fraser Valley, and all firefighters are encouraged to take advantage of services.

“We just want to make sure that everyone knows that mental health is real,” he said. “You just never know who is struggling with it.”

There has been an outpouring of support from across the country in comments on the Facebook post on the Cultus Lake Fire Department’s page.

“Our sincerest condolences on your loss. RIP brother…” reads a post from the Anarchist Mountain Fire Department.

”On behalf of myself, my family, and the Yale Fire Department family our sincere condolences go out to Connor’s family, friends and Fire Department Family,” wrote Shawn Dearden. “You are ALL in our thoughts. Rest easy Connor. Thank you for being who you were, people are proud of you, your memory will live on forever R.I.P.”

Anyone who feels like they might be in crisis or is considering suicide, can call the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

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