As a Logic song took off, the hotline saw more calls, fewer suicides

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DDuring the time when a song titled number of a national suicide prevention helpline tops the charts, calls to the helpline have increased and suicides have declined, new research finds . The song “1-800-273-8255” depicts a fictitious exchange between a person expressing suicidal thoughts and a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operator who advises a person and ultimately changes that person’s mind.

Lifeline executives and researchers studying suicide and the media co-authored the study, which was published Monday at tthe British Medical Journal. They found that three major events – the song’s release, the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, and the 2018 Grammy Awards – were correlated with an increase in hotline calls and, overall, a significant reduction in phone calls. suicides.

Josh Dominguez, 22, of California, said he was one of the people depicted in that statistic. Longtime fan of Logic, the artist behind the song, Dominguez said he listened to “1-800-273-8255” shortly after its release in April 2017, when he faced a recent breakup and emotions of graduating from high school. .

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“I felt like I was at my lowest point, and that caused me to call the number because I felt so lost,” he said. Speaking to one of the operators on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was therapeutic, he said, and years later wrote a note to Logic telling him his music had saved his life.

Logic spoke in an interview with Genie about how interactions with his fans inspired him to write “1-800-273-8255”.

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“They said things like ‘Yo your music saved my life,’” Logic said. “In my head I was like, ‘Man, I wasn’t even trying to save nobody’s life. And then it hit me, the power that I have as an artist with a voice. I wasn’t even trying to save your life – now what could happen if I actually did? “

The result was a chart-topping song featuring musical artists Alessia Cara and Khalid and, according to the researchers, offered one of the most rigorous tests of the “Papageno effect”. Nominated for a scene from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute in which when a character is persuaded not to commit suicide, the phenomenon has been theorized to occur when desperate individuals consume media about positive coping and ways to overcome suicidality, said John Draper, executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and study co-author. He added that the song’s true value may have been obscured, as its popularity peaked along with that of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” – which was associated with a peak of suicides among young people.

“There is still a lot of power and media around promoting stories of hope and recovery, but it’s also a reminder that there is a tide we must swim against,” Draper said. “Most stories continue to be about suicides and desperation, and casting that shadow constantly in the media on desperate people can actually darken a dark night.”

Draper said he noticed a spike in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline after Logic performed “1-800-273-8255” at the Video Music Awards and the Grammys and shared call data with his co- author Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, associate professor responsible for a public health and research group for suicide prevention at the University of Medicine Vienna, to determine the statistical impact of the song. The study authors conducted a regression analysis that estimated the effect of popular song moments on the number of hotline calls and the number of suicides, while accounting for any negative effects due to “13 reasons why” and celebrity suicides. They found that the combination of the song’s release and its live performances at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2018 Grammy Awards was associated with a significant increase in appeals and a decrease in suicides.

Alexandra Pitman, associate professor of general adult psychiatry at University College London, who was not involved in the research but wrote a accompanying editorial, said dissecting the song could prove useful for creators of mental health PSAs, as there is not a good understanding of how to help people overcome suicidal tendencies. . In addition to the song itself, she said the visuals – such as the music video of a young gay adult locked in and the award performances featuring volunteers wearing shirts with the line’s number on. assistance – were “powerful enough”.

The way the song is written may have also contributed to the success of its post, said Cliff Note, a Boston-based musician and songwriting professor at Berklee College of Music. By naming the song after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline but not referring to it in the lyrics, listeners are encouraged to take action by finding or calling the number. The song, Note added, was intended for a pop audience and intended to be sung in stadiums.

“When you listen to the song, at first glance, it doesn’t sound like a song about suicide. It’s kind of hilarious, like one of the lyrics says, ‘Who can understand? Woo! ‘ “, he said.

It’s important to note that there is a long tradition of reference to mental health issues and suicide in hip-hop music, from the work of Grandmaster Flash to Kid Cudi. Logic, a biracial artist who makes music inspired by hip-hop and pop, actually used the song to continue this conversation, even though “1-800-273-8255” has been criticized as flatter and out of date.

“There is a mental health crisis within the African American community, which is not being expressed for many different reasons, whether it is mistrust of the health system in general or the stigma around it. ‘idea of ​​mental illness,’ Note said. “The song might suck, but is that the most important part of what’s going on here?” No, we’re trying to get something bigger here that we don’t talk about. “


If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the crisis text line by texting HOME at 741741.


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