‘He was everybody’s rock’ Heartbroken widow on mission to improve mental-health supports for law-enforcement officers and their families after husband’s suicide

Stacia Franz is honouring her late husband’s life and legacy by seeking to ensure no law enforcement officer suffers in silence and no other spouse is widowed at 36.

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Stacia Franz is honouring her late husband’s life and legacy by seeking to ensure no law enforcement officer suffers in silence and no other spouse is widowed at 36.

The Winnipegger is embarking on what she believes will be a lifetime of work to increase and improve mental-health supports for Canadians after her partner Kieran Ebanks died by suicide April 25.

Ebanks, 33, was a superintendent in Canada Border Services Agency’s trade operations division in Winnipeg.

“He loved caring for people, that was really important to him,” Franz said during an interview at their home Wednesday. “He was everybody’s rock. If anybody needed help with anything, he would be there.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipegger Stacia Franz is campaigning to improve access to workplace mental-health supports for law-enforcement officers, after her husband, Kieran Ebanks, died by suicide in April.

Ebanks’ CBSA hat and badge sat on a living room table in front of her, alongside a folded Canadian flag that flew at the Emerson port of entry before his funeral, where it was given to Franz.

The couple started dating 15 years ago Friday, having met while working together at Earls restaurant in St. Vital.

She has been open about her husband’s death and her loss because she wants to break through the stigma of suicide, normalize talking about personal struggles and increase general awareness about mental health.

After several people approached her and said they wanted to do something to honour Ebanks, she decided to begin a campaign to help law-enforcement officers and their families through times of struggle.

SUPPLIED

Ebanks worked on the front lines at border crossings across Canada during his ascent to the rank of superintendent with the federal law-enforcement agency.

She wants to work directly with the CBSA, other agencies and mental-health organizations to develop tailored solutions with the hope of preventing similar tragedies.

“The crux of what I would like to see happen is to ensure CBSA officers have the proper amounts of support,” said Franz. “I very much see (the CBSA) as family, especially with how much they showed up and helped me (after Ebanks’ death).

“That’s what Kieran would have wanted.”

She noted the role of CBSA staff is to protect national security.

“There should be a safety net for you. You cannot help other people if you’re not being helped yourselves,” said Franz, the director of marketing and communications for the 2023 World Police and Fire Games in Winnipeg.

SUPPLIED Franz and Ebanks started dating 15 years ago, having met while working together at Earls restaurant in St. Vital.

Ebanks, a Dakota Collegiate graduate whose family moved from Birmingham, England, to Canada when he was a young boy, fulfilled a dream when he joined the CBSA in 2012.

He was hired after graduating at the top of his class from the police foundations program at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Ebanks worked on the front lines at border crossings across Canada during his ascent to the rank of superintendent with the federal law-enforcement agency.

His most recent role was senior officer of trade compliance in the CBSA’s downtown Winnipeg office.

Franz said her husband was dealing with struggles, and didn’t feel he was doing well in his managerial role.

While he worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, he found the isolation to be difficult, she said.

Help available

Manitoba has 24-hour crisis lines that provide free and confidential counselling, support and referrals.
The Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line is available at 1-877-435-7170. Further information is online at reasontolive.ca.
People can also call Klinic at 1-888-322-3019 (toll-free) or 204-786-8686.
The Manitoba Farm, Rural and Northern Support Services is at 1-866-367-3276 and supportline.ca

Ebanks sought help through the CBSA’s employee-assistance program, with his eighth and last counselling session taking place two weeks before his death, said Franz.

She said the sessions were done over the phone due to the pandemic.

As the spouse of a CBSA staff member, EAP was also available to Franz, who was informed there was a limit.

“It was eight sessions, then it stopped,” she said.

According to the CBSA’s website, the counselling service can make referrals to an external resource in the community if the issue is not short-term or if specialized treatment is required.

The first step of Franz’s journey, she said, is identifying existing supports and any gaps in programs, education or awareness.

EAP services must be completely confidential and they should be flexible, with the option of scheduling appointments outside of work hours, said Franz.

She worries some staff may be discouraged from seeking help if they have to inform a supervisor they are attending a session during work hours.

Her husband completed a mental-health awareness course as part of his role in management with CBSA.

While navigating her grief, Franz has found it helpful to keep herself busy with work and spending time with loved ones.

“When things aren’t busy, that’s not easy,” she said. “It’s a void, a massive void. I have a lovely support group to fill that void.”

“When things aren’t busy, that’s not easy. It’s a void, a massive void. I have a lovely support group to fill that void.” – Stacia Franz

She has started saying, “I love you,” to friends when they part ways.

“We didn’t do that before. Life is too short,” said Franz.

Franz has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for mental health initiatives and awareness about her efforts. More than $14,000 has been donated.

The CBSA did not provide a comment before press time.

 

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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