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Utah firefighter hopes to spread awareness about mental health in first responders

South Davis firefighter Mike Shafer created a rap about suicide prevention. (Mike Shafer)



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BOUNTIFUL — The Centers for Disease Control calls suicide a significant health problem, and first responders are at a higher risk.

One Utah firefighter took his experience as a first responder to the airwaves in an effort to raise awareness about the problem.

You wouldn't know it when he's on a scene with South Davis Metro Fire, but Mike Shafer is an aspiring rapper, and he recently released the first track on his newest album — a song about suicide.

It's a message that's personal for Mike.

"It's honestly something that hits home to me," he said.

Mike has been on the front lines for nearly a decade; there's no doubt the South Davis firefighter has positively impacted hundreds of lives. Now he hopes to broaden that reach, through a song about a tough topic: suicide.

"For me, spreading the awareness of, 'You're not alone. You're not the only one that's struggling, and we're here for you," said Mike.

"He came to me with this song and I was just blown away," said Mike's wife, Aubrey Shafer.

Aubrey is a photojournalist at KSL TV.

"Within the song, there's a story," she said.

A story that's all too familiar for first responders.

"We all have those scenes that I don't think I'll ever forget. We'll have those memories, and some of the scenes from the video were from my own personal struggle of things that have bothered me, and will probably never leave me."

Mike and Aubrey started putting the music to video.

"We pulled these things from things my husband has been on, scenes that have really impacted him," said Aubrey.

The journey has been rewarding.

Mike has looked to musicians like Eminem and Outkast for inspiration, and now hopes others will look to him for something else — hope.

"It's kind of been a little mind-blowing for me," said Mike. "I've had people reach out to me and just tell me, 'That's how I feel, and I appreciate you doing it. It's giving me confidence to reach out.'"

"If this video can help just one or two people make a phone call or reach out to a friend, then it's all worth it," said Aubrey.

The video can be found on YouTube.

The Shafers said a portion of the money made from the song will go to suicide prevention.

If you like what you heard and want more, Mike's next single from the album, "The Hunter's Son," drops on Wednesday.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online resources

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Debbie Worthen

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