Family seeks change as Henderson firefighter who died by suicide memorialized
Clete Dadian was a man who had a lot to live for. He was a long time firefighter, a loving husband, father, son and friend to many.
But life as a firefighter has a dark side, with near-constant exposure to the kinds of trauma most people likely go their entire lives without seeing. For Dadian, the struggle to overcome that darkness proved insurmountable, as it unfortunately does for so many first responders.
On December 12, at the age of 59, he took his own life.
On Thursday, Dadiani, who had worked for the Henderson Fire Department for just under 23 years, was commemorated as a line-of-duty death in a large celebration of life that had all the trappings and ceremonies, with a motorcade and a guard. honor, usually observed when a firefighter is killed in action.
“It was a real honor to be Clete’s wife. He adored me, fed me and protected me,” Dadian’s widow, Gina Dadian, said during the ceremony, which took place at Henderson’s Central Christian Church, a megachurch that in recent years has served as the site for the elders’ funerals. , including that of the Metropolitan Police. Department officer Truong Thai, who was shot and killed responding to the call in October.
“You see tragedy every day”
Hundreds, including many uniformed first responders from across Southern Nevada, were in attendance.
“He loved being a firefighter. He loved helping people,” Gina Dadian said. “But Clete also felt the hurt and pain of that person who was trying to help him on their worst day.”
In an interview Wednesday, Henderson Fire Chief Shawn White said Dadian’s death is a line-of-duty death because on-the-job exposure to trauma contributed to his suicide. Without getting specific out of respect for his family’s privacy, White said Dadian suffered from that disorder.
“You see tragedies every day, every day all day,” White said. “In Henderson we get about 100 calls a day in our community and none of those calls are good news.”
Firefighter death by suicide is a nationwide problem, but also something the Henderson Fire Department has endured, White said at the memorial service, calling suicide an “epidemic” in American firefighting.
Since 2019, two active duty Henderson firefighters and two retired Henderson firefighters have taken their own lives, City of Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards confirmed after the memorial. One of those active firefighters, Robbie Pettingill, 35, took his own life in September 2019.
‘More work to do’
Firefighters are 50 percent more likely than the general public to take their own lives, White said.
According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, which advocates for the social inclusion of people with disabilities, police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. In 2020, the total number of suicides reported by firefighters and EMS was 127, slightly higher than the 126 confirmed suicides in 2017, according to the foundation.
“This is a fire department that has worked hard to shine a light on this problem and get this conversation out of the back rooms, out of the bars,” White said. “But we obviously have more work to do; otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.”
Gina Dadian said from the podium that three and a half years ago, her husband struggled with feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness and worked with a therapist for three months, recovering.
“So what happened on December 12th?” asked Gina Dadian. “And when did that darkness sneak back? And where do we go from here? Something needs to change in the way we approach mental health within the fire service.”
In Henderson, Richards said the city and department have been “very progressive compared to other departments” in trying to foster an environment in which first responders, who are usually reluctant to talk about the emotional toll of their work, can talk about any difficulties they may face.
Also, the fact that Henderson designates first-responder suicides as line-of-duty deaths is at the forefront of addressing stigma, she said. White has also been vocal about the mental health challenges firefighters face.
Two years ago, Richards said, the city hired a public safety wellness manager, Jeff McClish, whose job it is to help Henderson police and firefighters talk through and work through any personal challenges they may be facing. There are also peer support teams, she said.
‘Something has to change’
During Thursday’s memorial service, Dadian’s daughter, Koral Dadian, who works for the Henderson Fire Department and is married to a Henderson firefighter, said that as the city and the department have grown, the focus on people has diminished.
“Somewhere along the way with more stations, more apparatus, more equipment and more promotions, this organization stopped focusing on the most important thing: its people,” said Koral Dadian. She implored the hundreds of people in attendance, and said that includes herself, to do better to show kindness and compassion and value relationships as she said her father did.
“I hope you know that it is not my intention to humiliate anyone,” said Koral Dadian. “I love this department. It will always hold the most special place in my heart, but something has to change.”
In a statement, the Henderson Fire Department and the Dadian family urged anyone who feels worried, depressed, hopeless or needs to talk to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides free, confidential support for people in distress. at 988 or 988lifeline.org.
Contact Brett Clarkson at [email protected] Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.