Kansas City Fire Department to begin new suicide prevention program this month

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. There are no national statistics kept for firefighter suicides. But in the last 10 years, four Kansas City firefighters have committed suicide. This month the fire department will launch a new program aimed at ending suicides.

Dr. Richard Gist, principal assistant to the fire chief, is the public health psychologist with the KCFD.

The program is called ACT.

"It stands for 'Ask, Care and Take,'" Gist explained. "Ask what's going on with someone and if they are thinking about hurting themselves."

Care is about showing a person that you care about them. Take stands for taking that person to a place where they can get help if you determine they need help.

Niko Cruz, a 23-year veteran with the Kansas City Fire Department, committed suicide on July 27. He was buried last Saturday.

He is survived by four children and one grandchild. His oldest daughter, Catalina Cruz, said that she decided to speak out about her father's suicide in hopes of preventing other suicides.

"My message would be if you know anyone who is struggling with suicide, please talk with them and get them help," she said.

Desmond McIntyre, an 11-year veteran with the Kansas City Fire Department, is also Niko Cruz's cousin.

"Niko was a great guy, loving, always helped other people and he would always come up to me and give me a great big hug and tell me he could still take me," McIntyre said smiling.

He explained that firefighters see things that you can never erase from your mind and deal with stresses and family and work that are incredibly difficult.

"It's one of the top five most stressful jobs," he added.

McIntyre encouraged others to take the time to talk with people and find out how they're really doing and do it often.

"If guys are struggling, it's important for us as men to stand up and admit we have a problem and ask each other if we have a problem so we can get help," he concluded.

For more information about suicide prevention, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website .

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