The song “1-800-273-8255” by hip-hop artist Logic has been directly linked to a higher number of calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and a decrease in suicides.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In 2019, it was responsible for one in 100 deaths worldwide. The WHO wants to reduce the number of deaths due to suicide by a third by 2030. But how can this be achieved? In the US, singing a song has proven to be a successful prevention method. Writing in the British Medical Journal, a research team explains that the song “1-800-273-8255” by hip-hop artist Logic was associated with an increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a US suicide prevention organization, and a decrease in suicides.
More than 200 lives saved
The title of the song is a direct reference to the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US. It describes someone in a suicidal crisis calling the number for help, and in a suicidal person’s journey, this is a turning point towards improving and dealing with their crisis. To determine whether the song’s positive message was related to behavior change, researchers led by Thomas Niederkrotenthaler of the Medical University of Vienna examined the links between Logic’s song and daily calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the number of daily suicides in the US. They found that in the 34-day period following the three events that generated the most public attention about the song (the release of the song, the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, and the 2018 Grammy Awards), there were 9,915 additional calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 6.9% increase over the expected number. During the same period, there was a decrease of 245 suicides compared to the expected data, which is a decrease of 5.5%.
What is the impact of media coverage of suicide?
For the authors, these findings highlight the value of innovative and creative approaches, in collaboration with other sectors such as the music and entertainment industries, to bring new and powerful stories to the public’s attention in order to reduce the risk of suicide. They should show the possibility of overcoming a crisis rather than warning of the deadly risk. Alexandra Pitman, one of the authors, explains that this work is evidence of the Papageno Effect, the theory that stories about someone overcoming a suicidal crisis protect against suicide. The role of the media is also part of the surveillance elements mentioned by the WHO: the WHO explains that “media reports on suicide can lead to an increase in suicide by copycats – especially if the report is about a famous person or describes the suicide method”. It recommends that the media counterbalance such stories with other stories of successful recovery for people who have had mental health problems or suicidal thoughts.
Suicide hotline Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255