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Taser-maker AXON launches mental health program to help families provide support to law enforcement officers

EXCLUSIVE DETAILS – Samantha Horwitz did not realize her family members were worried about her mental health.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt after watching the Twin Towers collapse, the 9/11 first responder told Fox News she was in a “deep, dark place” when she nearly took her own life.

Then, one day, Horwitz’s mother showed up unannounced and told her, “We need you back.”

When we lose a partner, or we can’t get to a victim or we’re unable to save people … it takes its toll.

— Samantha Horwitz

The former United States Secret Service special agent and current president of A Badge of Honor, an organization dedicated to law enforcement officer mental health and resiliency efforts, credits the support from her mom and her husband for beginning the difficult process toward recovery.

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Horwitz spoke to Fox News on Monday in support of a new program created by Taser-maker Axon, Axon Aid’s Family First initiative. The program will provide resources for families to help them better understand and support any loved ones who are in law enforcement and may be struggling with post-traumatic stress.

“One of the biggest crises facing law enforcement today is mental health. There is one group in particular that receives little to no resources, but can generally make the biggest impact on Law Enforcement: their families,” Axon said Monday in announcing the new program. “This group has the ability to ‘spot the signs’ of an at risk loved one typically ahead of peers, and also carries a burden themselves.”

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A 2018 study from Ruderman Family Foundation found that first responders are more likely to commit suicide than they are to die in the line of duty.

Through Family First, loved ones can be provided “virtual scenario-based training modules,” including surveys, webinars and books, among other resources, and can access the material anonymously.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What do you think would have happened if your mom didn’t come over?'” said Horwitz, who is also now an author and a public speaker. “Honestly, I don’t know, because I wouldn’t have had the skills and learned how to process and get through the trauma. I shudder to think that maybe I would have completed suicide, which is what we’re seeing.”

The initiative was in the works for just over a year before its launch, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, said Isabella Giannini, a senior manager of customer loyalty at Axon. The program will be accessible to the public through the website for Axon Aid, Axon’s philanthropic leg.

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“I want responders to know that it’s OK to get help, in fact it can make you much stronger,” Giannini told Fox News. “I want families to know that, you are the primary support system and here are tools to make you more effective.”

According to statistics from Blue H.E.L.P., 55 law enforcement officers have taken their own lives so far this year.

Just earlier this month, a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer shot and killed himself in what was reportedly the second suspected NYPD suicide in April alone, according to the New York Daily News.  

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“We are trained to respond to trauma. We are trained to run into the gunfight. We are trained to run into the burning building,” Horwitz continued. “And with that, when we lose a partner, or we can’t get to a victim or we’re unable to save people … it takes its toll.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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