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‘Don’t suffer in silence': Ohio FD urges suicide awareness after firefighter’s death

Canton Firefighter Jared Kneale’s family and coworkers believe something positive must come from his death

Editor’s Note:
Suicide is always preventable. If you are having thoughts of suicide or feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 988. Counselors are also available to chat at Remember: You deserve to be supported, and it is never too late to seek help. Speak with someone today.

By Bill Carey

CANTON, Ohio — The Canton Fire Department is mourning the loss of Firefighter/Paramedic Jared Kneale, who died by suicide on May 17.

In a social media post, the department shared, “With the consent of Jared’s wife and children, we wish to inform you that Jared’s death resulted from suicide due to a post-traumatic stress-related illness.”

With the permission of Kneale’s family, the department shared part of his story to raise awareness, believing that something positive must come from this tragedy, News 5 Cleveland reported.

“We don’t want this to go unnoticed. It’s a difficult time for the fire department family, and it’s a very difficult time for his family,” Division Chief Steven Henderson said. “We want to make sure we get the word out that if you’re having issues— police, fire, any responders— say something. We support each other.”

Henderson noted that Kneale had mentioned struggling with PTSD, partly due to difficult calls, including a fatal arson earlier this month.

“We were doing everything we could to support him. He was getting help,” Henderson said. “Firefighters and police officers, we all think we’re Superman and invincible. We’re not.”

“Any types of change in behavior— withdrawing, depressed, maybe feeling like a burden— are all warning signs that you should be checking in and just saying, ‘Hey, I noticed things are off and I want to check in and see how things are going,’” Stark County Suicide and Resiliency Services Coordinator Elena Aslanides-Kandis said.

Be alert to these phrases and ready to be empathetic and non-judgmental

She advised watching for suicide warning signs, particularly if someone expresses losing hope.

Despite their anguish, the department emphasized the importance of remembering Kneale while continuing to advocate for firefighter mental health.

“Don’t suffer in silence,” Henderson said.

Wellness: How to support your personnel
The concept of wellness encompasses the whole body, and leaders play a role in supporting the physical, mental and emotional needs of first responders