Firefighters from across B.C. attended a funeral Monday morning for the Surrey firefighter who took his own life after battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kevin Hegarty, 53, is remembered as an advocate for the mental health issues facing emergency service workers.

“He became a champion, an advocate to the efforts of bringing these issues to the forefront of all workers in the emergency service industry,” said Surrey Fire Fighters Association president Mike McNamara. “We cannot emphasize enough the significance of the efforts Kevin made to try and help all workers with the difficulties that come with the service we provide.”

During his 20 year career as a firefighter, Hegarty responded to many distressing calls. He developed symptoms of PTSD over the years, including anxiety and sleep issues.

But it was a call involving a murdered teenage boy that led to the firefighter’s leave of absence. Hegarty died on March 1.

PTSD typically occurs after exposure to trauma, and can elicit symptoms such as severe anxiety, flashbacks, numbness, and nightmares. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, emergency personnel experience the disorder twice as much as the average Canadian.

Hegarty worked extensively with the B.C. Burn Fund, and assisted with the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society. He leaves behind family and friends, including a nine-year-old son.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association, or BC Burn Fund “In memory of Kevin Hegarty.”

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Lisa Rossington