Kyle Currie’s mother says he was a kind, fun-loving guy who felt like a rock star as a Halifax firefighter. But a decade of firefighting took a serious toll.
“He wanted to be tough, but he couldn’t be. He was deeply struggling with that,” says Claudia Currie.
Stacking — the accumulation of moderate amounts of stress over time from various calls —eventually became too much to bear. Kyle developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He self-medicated with alcohol and was hospitalized several times. He took his own life on Oct. 2.
Kyle is one of 16 first responders in Canada who have died by suicide so far in 2018, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust. In 2017, 46 Canadian first responders took their own lives.
“His tragedy is unfortunately going to be part of the story of how we’re going to bring awareness of the things that first responders see and deal with,” says Currie.
Rates of PTSD among first responders are at least double that of the public, according to the LifeLine Canada Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to positive mental health and suicide prevention. Canadian Psychology published a recent survey of 5,148 first responders in Canada that found that about 28 per cent have had suicidal thoughts.
Teeing up the conversation
This year, a golf tournament raising money for first responder PTSD support and research has been renamed the Kyle Currie Memorial Golf Classic.
Organizer Bobby MacKenzie met Kyle at fire school and the two were close friends. He was surprised to hear of Kyle’s death.
“This one hit close to home. This one made it real,” he says.
Changing the name of the tournament is a way to honour his old friend and put a face on the issue of first responder mental health.
“I thought that was fitting, to put a name to it, and I feel like now that has a personal connection,” MacKenzie says.
The tournament, formerly called Help Our Heroes, has been held four times and has raised about $30,000. The money was donated to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, which funds mental health research, education and resources for first responders.
Currie thinks it’s a great idea to rename the tournament after her son.
“It’s an incredible honour, and it makes me very proud that they would honour Kyle with that,” she says. “I’m hoping that it does help raise awareness that first responders need help.”
That’s what MacKenzie is trying to do.
“To me it’s completely unacceptable that first responders, the people who are supposed to be helping others, are now turning around and either feeling like there’s no help or not getting the help they need in time,” says MacKenzie, a Halifax firefighter of 10 years.
The Kyle Currie Memorial Golf Classic will take place on June 14, 2019, at the Granite Springs golf course in Bayside, N.S. MacKenzie says all money raised will be donated to a charity supporting PTSD for military and first responders.
Mental health resources
For emergency mental health help, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.
The Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Line is 1-888-429-8167 and is available 24 hours, seven days a week.