The wife and children of a police officer who died by suicide have given permission for his face to be used in a futuristic campaign that allows Melbourne’s father to speak to his former colleagues about seeking mental health help.
Belinda Bozykowski said Senior Sheriff Laurie Fox had been planning for her future without “the slightest idea” of a problem the morning she took her own life on New Year’s Eve in 2012.
But by afternoon he was “really struggling” and after one last agitated phone call he was dead, leaving behind his sons, Charlie and Henry.
The story of the former tactical intelligence officer is not unique, with more than 20 members of the Victoria Police dying by suicide in the last seven years.
The troubling statistic led Victoria police to think outside the box to address the mental health of those who work in the force.
Using “deepfake” technology, Senior Agent Fox has come back to life and speaks candidly of the challenges he faced in overcoming mental illness.
Sitting at his work desk, the father of two talks candidly about the importance of mental health awareness, how to spot the warning signs, and the importance of speaking up.
“You know what it is … I couldn’t show any weakness,” Sheriff Fox said.
“I was afraid there would be a black stain on my name, and there goes my career.”
“Maybe if I did, I would be with you today.”
Deepfake allows an existing image to be projected onto an actor as if it were a mask, creating compelling recordings without the participation of the subject.
Bozykowski said that she and her children hope the digital resurrection can help save lives.
“I just want you to talk to someone just in case,” he told 9News.
“It could just be a conversation with someone who can change your mind.”
The Melbourne mother said that losing their father was difficult for the children, but that they are still very proud of him and are comforted to know that seeing his face again could have a huge impact on their former colleagues.
“Every time we see the police, they always come up and say hello,” Ms. Bozykowski said.
“They always say ‘my dad was a cop.’
Charlie recalled his father’s intelligence and wicked sense of humor, while his brother Henry said he wanted those struggling to know that there is support.
“He was very brave, but he couldn’t get through bad situations properly … it made him feel like ‘I can’t do this, I need the support,’ but he couldn’t speak,” said the scholar. .
“Everybody needs to talk, even if it’s their weakness.”
In 2017, the Victoria Police Mental Health and Welfare Study found that Victoria Police employees are more likely to think about suicide than the general public.
Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson said there is a lot of stigma attached to suicide in general, and the police force is no different.
“The sooner you recognize the signs of a colleague suffering from poor mental health or you recognize the signs in yourself, the sooner you seek help, the greater the success.”
Deputy Commissioner Paterson believes the campaign is key to improving communication in the force.
“We don’t want anyone to be afraid of losing their job for talking about suicide,” said Deputy Commissioner Paterson.
“We want everyone to know that if they show up when they have that level of thinking, we are here to support them.”
Readers seeking support and information on suicide prevention can contact Lifeline at 13 11 14.