ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — One law enforcement officer's wife is speaking out about the heavy toll that comes from wearing a badge.
The wife of a Pinellas County deputy, Lauren Levi, says her husband was fighting depression and PTSD in the months before he took his own life. Now, she is fighting to make sure no one else has to fight their own department for benefits.
"He was our protector. And he was your protector too," Levi told 10News.
Levi says her husband Kevin adored her, their dogs and his family above all else. And she says, he was passionate about his job.
"You see, when Kevin was little he wanted to be Superman. But, since that job was taken, he became a cop," she said.
Levi didn't think this was an interview she'd ever have to do.
"I'm telling this story because besides being a law enforcement officer, my husband was a man. An absolutely, incredible man, and I don't want him to be just another statistic. Suicide is real," she said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says Kevin died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while off-duty.
"He definitely struggled with his job. He had gone through some incidents with his job that never left him," she said.
The sheriff's office offers counseling, peer support, chaplains and a new "resiliency program" that teaches deputies how to recognize signs, symptoms and risk factors of suicide in colleagues and in yourself. Despite all of this, Levi says she wants to see more from them and from all law enforcement agencies.
"I think the sheriff's offices and police departments don't do enough to help with mental health. I don't think they do enough to help the grieving families afterward," she said.
Levi says that's especially true in this case. Since Kevin committed suicide, she says her family won't receive the same benefits as officers killed on the job.
"I definitely feel that, me and his family should be compensated for a line of duty death and not just for his health benefits because again, they're cops twenty-four-seven," she said.
The sheriff's office sent 10News a statement, which reads:
"PCSO representatives have been and will continue to be in contact with the Levi family and we are doing all we can to help them through a very difficult time. While this is not a line of duty death, we have told Kevin’s family that we will provide the appropriate recognition at his services. Our Human Resources Bureau has been working with Deputy Levi’s wife and through various insurance policies and other payouts, she will receive a substantial sum of money. Kevin was a part of our family as he was a part of theirs and we share in their loss."
10News also spoke with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, who say they recently added volunteer chaplains and are focusing on suicide prevention.
You can find the link to a GoFundMe to help Kevin's family here.
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